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Where does the Port Authority money go?

August 19, 2011 3:17:51 PM PDT
That the Port Authority is facing tough challenges is undeniable, but the massive agency that touts having kept staffing to a 40-year low seems addicted to over-time and out-sourcing. Rebuilding the World Trade Center demands much of the Port Authority's attention and money. The $2-billion dollars in cost overruns tops the list of reasons for the huge toll hikes, but long after completion, the project could still cost commuters.

"If you don't have more financial tenants, other big paying tenants at 1 WTC, the toll payers, commuters will be paying the cost of keeping up this real estate," Nicole Gelinas at the Manhattan Institute said.

The high-costs of securing its bridges and tunnels after 9/11 has also contributed to the Port Authority's fiscal crisis. The on-going recession has reduced the number of toll-paying motorists too. But as we've reported in the past, some of its money woes are self-inflicted. For instance, the Port Authority paid Raytheon $100 million dollars to build an intrusion-detection system around its airports. It doesn't work, still in the testing phase more than 3 years after it was to be completed. Then there's the overtime costs that have 36-percent of the authority's workers making more than $100-thousand dollars. "What we actually see with overtime especially for someone near the end of their career. Those big numbers those inflated numbers on compensation end up being part of the pension calculation," NY State Comptroller Thomas DeNapoli said.

Besides overtime costs, the State Comptroller has also investigated the Port Authority's reliance on out-side contractors. For instance, in 2009 the Authority paid $106 million for outside engineering consultants more than the $91 million spent for its in-house staff of 153 engineers. In another contract, the agency paid more than a million dollars to an outside contractor to change light bulbs. The Port Authority says out-sourcing has saved money by reducing staffing to a 40-year-low.

"They really are an extension of the workforce. So if you say you're keeping head count low, but got permanent consultants, you're really not giving the clear picture," DeNapoli said.

The Port Authority says its business model continues to allow them to be good stewards of the assets and mission entrusted to the Authority.

But those Eyewitness News spoke to today say the agency is missing two key spending controls: accountability and oversight,

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