UDOT audit taking longer than expected

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UTAH COUNTY -- An audit into the state's transportation agency over the awarding of the controversial contract for the Interstate 15 CORE project won't be done by the end of November as previously planned. The state auditor says he needs more time.

The audit of UDOT was requested in late September by Gov. Gary Herbert as controversy raged over revelations about the bid for the state's $1.7 billion I-15 CORE project--Utah's biggest ever.

State auditor Auston Johnson says interviews of the large number of people who were involved in the I-15 CORE selection process are taking longer than initially expected.

Four investigators, who are all CPAs and certified fraud examiners, are interviewing dozens of people--the technical team, the oversight review committee, UDOT execs, and winning and losing bidders.

One key question to the audit is: Why did UDOT pick Provo River Constructors by one point, when the technical team favored bidder FSZ?

"We're asking everybody if there was any pressure from any source to not do this bid they way they've done every other bid," Johnson said.

Another question: Why did UDOT pay out a $13 million settlement to a losing bidder, and do it without notifying top state leaders, including the governor?

Johnson said, "I personally think if I had a request to write a check for $13 million, I'd probably want to run it by somebody."

Johnson said his office has not uncovered anything illegal to date but has uncovered some surprises he won't yet reveal.

"We're going down some trails we didn't know that were there before," he said.

UDOT deputy director Carlos Braceras said, "I'm confident the audit will show things as we've described them. I'm hopeful that the audit is able to help us find opportunities to improve processes, to make things better in the future."

The audit will not be looking into the more than $80,000 in campaign contributions to the governor's campaign by the winning bidder. Johnson says election complaints are the responsibility of the Lt. Governor's office.

He says he expects the audit to be done by the end of December.

E-mail: jdaley@ksl.com

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