Local News

DOT Boss Vows to Fix Problems Listed in Critical Report

Posted November 8, 2007 6:25 a.m. EST
Updated November 8, 2007 6:54 p.m. EST

— Rank-and-file members of the Department of Transportation got the opportunity Thursday to question the agency's head about a recent outside report that called the department inefficient, poorly managed and lacking in direction.

There was standing room only at the open meeting held by Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippet, who admitted DOT is trying to work out kinks. Tippet said he is committed to changing how the organization functions, but did not elaborate on any changes.

"The job is very challenging but not overwhelming," Tippett said. "What we're trying to do is bring about change to an agency that has essentially operated for 75 years in the same manner."

The DOT wanted to know what employees thought about the agency in the aftermath of a botched paving job on Interstate 40 in Durham, so it hired an international consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., to find out. The report 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 and a lack of vision. The agency was also accused of having a lack of accountability and being "too political." One employee wrote that it seemed like no one was in charge.

Allegations of inefficiency also dogged the DOT in the report. The report also found that the DOT's structure prevents some divisions from working well with each other and that the agency does not do a good job of recruiting new workers or keeping the good ones.

Employees also said they were dissatisfied with low pay and outdated technology.

"If this was a corporate structure, heads would have rolled," said state Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Tippet said he does not anticipate making any changes among his management team. He said he believes the right team in place to get the job done successfully.

"If it's candid answers, you'll see where the warts are in your organization. The issue is (to) do something about it," Tippett said.

Gov. Mike Easley, who appointed Tippett, said he supports the Transportation Secretary. A spokesman with the governor's office said Easley believes Tippett will deal with the problems listed in the report.

Among the recommendations are that the DOT increase accountability and streamline projects. McKinsey said it would work with the DOT over the next year and half to try to make the agency more efficient.

Based on Tippet's responses during the meeting Thursday, some employee said they are willing to give him the green light to go ahead.

"We saw an administration that is willing to come out of their comfort zone, so at a staff level, it's extremely encouraging," Ted Devins, DOT employee, said.

Brad Wilson, head of the 24-member transportation committee appointed by Easley earlier this week, said Tippet will face a challenge endeavor as he tries to initiate change in DOT.

"It will come down to the strength and energy of the leadership, their commitment to making those happen," Wilson said.