Audit: Tri-Town Board Needs to Focus on Finances
Bump calls for new expertise on project’s Board
BOSTON, MA — State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump today issued an audit of the South Shore Tri-Town Development Corporation (Tri-Town) which faults its Board of Directors and management for failing to focus their financial responsibilities, and she questions whether the current governance structure is appropriate given the scope of its goal.
Tri-Town, created by the Legislature in 1998, is a local governmental entity charged with overseeing the redevelopment of a decommissioned naval base located in the towns of Abington, Rockland, and Weymouth. Tri-Town selected LNR Property, as the master developer of the site in 2002 with completion of the project planned for 2017.
Essential to project completion are a cross-community roadway and water and sewage systems. Total infrastructure costs are projected at $220 million. According to the audit, $62 million of financing has been secured but Tri-Town’s management and Board of Directors have not developed formal financial plans to raise the additional $158 million needed to complete these infrastructure elements, despite the passage of 8 years since the approval of the project’s master plan.
Without comprehensive plans to finance and construct the project’s necessary infrastructure, the report says Tri-Town is jeopardizing its ability to achieve its primary mission of developing the base on schedule and to fulfill current obligations to the developer and current residents.
Based on her report, the Auditor plans to recommend the Legislature to consider amending the composition of the Tri-Town Board of Directors to include members who offer industry expertise with large, complex projects.
“A project of this scope requires direction, oversight, and guidance from individuals with expertise in development, public planning, and finance. I do not believe the Tri-Town board currently provides that leadership” said Auditor Bump. “Too much is on the line for this project to go south. Through a legislative change the state can bring in the experience needed to complete this important regional economic development project successfully and expeditiously.”
The audit report also found that Tri-Town made payments totaling over $1.3 million to two law firms without entering into a formal written contract and over $1 million in payments to nine contractors providing public relations and logistical services which lacked documentation supporting their business need. Maintaining both written contracts and adequate records related to contracted services are basic tools necessary to ensure Tri-Town’s payments serve their public mission and that contractors fulfill their agreements.
Tri-Town is required by law to file annual financial reports with the Office of the State Auditor and its Advisory Board is required to communicate with the Governor’s office and the Legislature regarding the corporation and its programs, but today’s audit found such reports have either not occurred or have been repeatedly late.
Auditor Bump has called on Tri-Town’s Board of Directors to improve its oversight of the project, to immediately implement financing plans with specific timelines for development, and to improve contracting policies.
The Office of the State Auditor conducts technical and performance assessments of state government’s programs, departments, agencies, authorities, contracts, and vendors. With its reports, the OSA issues recommendations to improve accountability, efficiency, and transparency.