State Auditor’s independent audit of Sound Transit’s accountability gives agency high marks

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Today the Washington State Auditor’s Office issued an accountability audit of Sound Transit that gives the agency a clean report on its compliance with a broad array of state laws and regulations regarding handling of public dollars and maintaining public transparency.

“Accountability is Sound Transit’s highest priority,” said Sound Transit Finance Committee Chair Fred Butler. “Nothing is more important than being able to show people our work; people expect agencies to perform at this level when they vote to make major investments in transit.”

The accountability audit, which included no findings of violations by Sound Transit, covered a broad range of agency activities including but not limited to appropriately handling financial transactions; complying with requirements for maintaining open public meetings and records; meeting requirements for agency contracting and competitive bidding; and abiding by laws on ethics and conflicts of interest.

“I am committed to ensuring that Sound Transit is open and accountable to the public and this audit confirms the agency is on the right track,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. “The report should give people confidence that Sound Transit is making smart, effective investments to improve transportation around the region.”

“Sound Transit is firmly committed to maintaining an agency culture of accountability, transparency and results,” said Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer Joni Earl. “We wholeheartedly embrace independent scrutiny of how we conduct the public’s business. The state’s recent performance audit of our light rail construction also confirmed our success in meeting the challenges that are part of building the regional mass transit system our residents need and deserve.”

Sound Transit is one of the most closely reviewed and audited agencies in the state. The state’s 2007 performance audit of Sound Transit identified 48 different federal, state and independent audits going back to before voters approved the Sound Move ballot measure in 1996, and noted that the agency is marked by a “culture of continuous improvement.”

The State Auditor’s Office appeared before the Sound Transit Finance Committee’s Jan. 3 meeting to provide an exit conference on the accountability audit.

“I believe you can give yourselves a small pat on the back for having a good year,” Evans Anglin, the Accountability Audit manager for the State Auditor’s office told the Sound Transit Finance Committee during a presentation about the audit.

Video of the presentation is available online at x4976.xml.

The accountability audit spanned the year of 2006, a period in which Sound Transit budgeted $739 million in construction spending for light rail, commuter rail and regional express bus services and carried an average of almost 43,000 riders each weekday. Over the course of 2007, Sound Transit’s average daily ridership increased to more than 50,000 daily weekday riders by the end of the year.

The audit released today is available at: http://www.sao.wa.gov/reports/auditfinding/AuditReportSearch.aspx?AuditNumber=28369

The audit marks the seventh time the Auditor’s Office has undertaken accountability audits of Sound Transit. All but one audit has gone without findings. The next audit will focus on 2007, a year in which Sound Transit undertook major efforts to maximize its cost-effectiveness in delivering projects.

The Accountability Audit follows two recent upgrades to Sound Transit’s bond ratings by the nation’s leading municipal bond rating agencies. Both Moodys and Standard and Poor’s upgraded Sound Transit municipal bonds last fall.

Standard & Poor’s upgraded Sound Transit’s subordinate lien bond rating to AAA, signaling strong investor confidence in Sound Transit’s financial health and outlook. Standard & Poor's also affirmed the AAA rating for Sound Transit’s senior lien bonds, a rating that was upgraded to the S&P’s highest grade back in 2006.

Moody’s Investor Service upgraded Sound Transit's senior lien bond rating from Aa3 to Aa2, their third highest credit rating.

 

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Sound Transit’s regional network of express buses, commuter rail, light rail and transit facilities connects communities in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.