State News

DOT Criticized For Lack of Priorities, Accountability

Posted October 31, 2007
Updated November 1, 2007

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— A consultant's report that cost taxpayers $2.5 million said that projects at the state Department of Transportation proceed slowly because of a lack of prioritization, accountability and coordination.

The 472-page report, prepared by international management consultant McKinsey & Co., was ordered in response to a botched paving job on Interstate 40 in Durham.  The review was based in part on confidential interviews and surveys of nearly 9,000 DOT employees and interviews with state leaders.

Workers complained about low morale, poor communication and a lack of incentive-based pay, and they said the DOT is too political. Many said there was a lack of vision and accountability at the agency, and one employee wrote that it seemed like no one is in charge.

"If this was a corporate structure, heads would have rolled," said state Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee. "There are too many political appointees sitting around acting like engineers, and they're not."

Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett said he doesn't feel that his job is in jeopardy because of the report.

"If it's candid answers, you'll see where the warts are in your organization. The issue is do something about it," Tippett said. "The buck stops with me and I had the authority to order the consultant to come in and take a look at us, and I did just that."

Gov. Mike Easley is confident that Tippett will carry out the recommendations made in the review, Easley spokesman Seth Effron said.

State lawmakers have told the DOT to examine how it works before requesting more money. Legislators are expected to make transportation a priority in the next session of the General Assembly.

The report also found that the DOT's structure prevents some divisions from working well with each other and that it doesn't do a good job of recruiting new workers or keeping the good ones.

Among the recommendations are that the DOT increase accountability and streamline projects. McKinsey & Co. will help the agency implement efficiency changes over the next year and a half.

The mistake that prompted the DOT audit is close to wrapping up.

Pavement on about 11 miles of I-40 had to be ripped up and resurfaced after it began crumbling shortly after a major widening project. Crews are expected to finish the job by the end of the year.

Inspectors determined a lack of on-site inspection, badly written contracts and a lack of accountability by DOT managers led to mistakes in the original paving job. Three highway engineers were disciplined and another DOT official retired in the wake of the botched project. The DOT and contractors continue to haggle over who picks up the tab for the $21 million repaving project.


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  • gpd Nov 2, 2007

    All the disgruntled DOT workers doing nothing but "hangin-in-there" for that lofty retirement egg logging on to bash their co-workers is just sad. When the report said that co-workers unwilling to work together, it was you that they were talking about. So many people so willingly unhappy because they feel better if they post how bad others are. Bunch of cuthroats actually.

    NCchick, these people don't want change, they just want to complain. If things changed, even public opinion, they would have to face their own shortcomings. BTW, how long has the hiring block been enforced at DOT? 3 years or so? If I remember correctly it was part of the Govna's great budget plan when he got re-elected.

  • Lissa13082 Nov 2, 2007

    hmmmmmmm - less employess + STILL bad pay = bad, unhappy workers
    whatusay - that's where you are wrong, they contract out NONE of the road maintenance and that's where we are understaffed.
    jkuwalik2 - I guess I can forgive you your ignorance since you obviously do not work for DOT, therefore do not know what really goes on...

  • scoutmomof2 Nov 2, 2007

    Let me clarify some points regarding DOT engineers made by earlier posters:

    Not all engineers at DOT are PEs and not all have engineering degrees. Some promoted from technician positions.

    A PE has to pass 2-8 hour exams, the EI and then the PE. Both can be difficult to pass the 1st time around. All PE candidates can take the review class (I did not and still passed the 1st time) and it is offered during the day. For instance a current one is every other Friday and Saturday. A DOT engineer (and sometimes consultants) are given time off to take the class, it is considered training.

    DOT engineers have to get permission to interview for jobs outside of DOT from their supervisors. If they don't have permission, the firm they go to will lose all current contracts with the Dept. as well as future contracts. That was made a policy when Sen. Jenkins was on the BOT.

    DOT employees do not get raises every year like the teachers, not even every other year.

  • jkuwalik2 Nov 1, 2007

    howabout least give them credit for trying to fix a broken ship

    Since they broke it, they should at least try to fix it.

  • jkuwalik2 Nov 1, 2007

    They have priorities. they get to work, 1st on the list is to get their pay check, then surf the web, the take a break, then surf the web, then go to lunch, then surf the web, then take a break, then take a break again, then surf the web, then go home. they have proirities, you just have to know what they are.

  • wayne1961 Nov 1, 2007

    NCcarguy, you don't know what you are talking about.

    How can DOT not have a budget? If there was no budget all the roads would be fixed, all the positions would be filled and everyone would be happy.

    How can DOT not have deadlines? Otherwise projects would never get on the ground. Traffic lights would never get fixed, your road wouldn't get paved.

    Many of you might think that the 2.5 Million for the McKinsey Report is a waste of money, but I don't. An external survey of DOT has a lot more credibility than an internal survey. McKinsey is an expert on fixing large corporations. If many of you would bother to READ the report, it has many recommendations to improve DOT, based on employee feedback. The WRAL article focuses on the criticisms - but there are a lot of fixes contained in that report. Instead of sitting back and taking potshots at DOT, howabout least give them credit for trying to fix a broken ship. We all know that business as usual wasn't working.

  • deucedude Nov 1, 2007

    The impression I get of DOT guys on the job.....everybody leaning on a shovel. LOL!!!!!!

  • todd23 Nov 1, 2007

    Hiring a consultant: I'd rather have an outside source do it rather than an internal audit. Think about Durham's internal audit regarding the Duke case.

    Tippett: Why does this guy get a free pass?

  • joco cruiser Nov 1, 2007

    Why hire a consultant?..........Getting DOT to admit there is a problem is next to impossible.

    DOT employees on the internet?...........I know of at least one entire department that is nicknamed "the internet zone" because so many employees are on the internet all day.

    Departments working together?.............NEVER HAPPEN!

    The sad thing is the report only scratched the surface. There is so much wrong and so much money wasted that it is plain unreal and disappointing as a tax payer.

    Not only does there need to be a retirement party, there needs to be a firing party to get rid of the ones that have never been able to do the job hired for.

  • DOTPE Nov 1, 2007

    *sigh* NC chik, monkey, and the other posters who apparently were posting here on state computers during state dumb can you be?? I hope you all have jobs in the morning.