Tuesday, April 02, 2013

GAO audit lauds CHSRA

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The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) received politically critical praise April 1 that was no April Fool's joke, as a Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit gave CHSRA good reviews for its conduct and procedures.

The review is significant, since GAO’s findings counter charges by anti-rail partisans, farming interests, and some environmental concerns in California and nationwide that the agency is financially maladroit.

GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. It investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. The performance audit of CHSRA, which has been granted $3.2 billion by the Department of Transportation for Phase I construction, was conducted from February 2012 to March 2013.

GAO gave CHSRA good marks for estimates involving cost, revenue targets, ridership estimates, and economic impact expectations. The federal agency also found that CHSRA used best practices and followed all applicable laws to the best of CHSRA's ability. 

"The GAO's audit report is extremely clear that the Authority's processes and methodologies in estimating its costs, revenue, and ridership are sound," said CHSRA Chair Dan Richard.

GAO did note that CHSRA should improve its modeling and forecasting by following all best practices to minimize the risk of cost overruns and unmet performance targets. But it found fault with the Federal Railroad Administration for not reflecting best practices in the guidance FRA issued to CHSRA.