Welcome!

News Feed Item

Auditor General Jack Wagner Says Pa. Turnpike's Dealings in Risky Swaps Has Cost Taxpayers and Motorists At Least $108 Million

Audit reveals six findings, offers 20 recommendations for improvement

HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Auditor General Jack Wagner said that an audit released today of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has found that the turnpike's involvement in interest-rate swaps has cost Pennsylvania taxpayers and turnpike motorists at least $108.9 million.  Wagner said the turnpike's strategy was to use the swaps to save money, but it has instead proved to further saddle the debt-ridden commission by not using conventional fixed-rate bonds to finance its debt.

Under Act 44, a Lease and Funding Agreement was entered into by the turnpike and PennDOT, which requires the turnpike to pay PennDOT $450 million a year, or nearly $24 billion, over a period of 50 years to provide funding for roads, bridges and transit. According to news reports, the turnpike raised tolls only five times from its opening in 1940 through 2004. Since Act 44 was implemented in 2007, there have been five annual toll increases, including one that took effect Jan. 6. Wagner reiterated today that the commission's long-term debt has increased by more than 200 percent, from $2.6 billion to $8.3 billion, since the General Assembly approved Act 44 of 2007.

"Given its precarious financial position relative to Act 44 payments, the turnpike should not use these complicated and risky deals," Wagner said. "The Turnpike Commission should terminate its swap deals and ban all swap use in the future for the sake of Pennsylvania taxpayers and the motoring public as soon as it is financially feasible to do so."

Interest-rate swaps are legal agreements between two parties – a debt-financing entity and an investment bank – on which way interest rates will move. The party that guesses correctly gets paid, and the party that guesses incorrectly must pay. The payments are determined by the amount of public debt financed with variable-rate loans.

A 2009 investigation completed by Wagner's office of the Bethlehem Area School District found that on a statewide basis, 107 of 500 school districts and 86 local governments had $14.9 billion in public debt tied to swaps. The numbers have since increased to $17.5 billion in public debt, encompassing 108 of 500 school districts and 101 local governments.  In the process, millions of public dollars have been lost in interest-rate swaps deals.

Wagner's audit, which covered the period Jan. 1, 2007 through Aug. 31, 2011, found that the turnpike's 23 active swaps had a negative book fair value of $29.3 million as of May 31, 2011. Furthermore, Wagner's audit revealed that the turnpike had paid $59 million in fees and interest for terminated swaps, and $49 million in fees and interest on active swaps, for a total of $108,972,133 paid out in swaps losses between Dec.16, 1998 and Aug. 31, 2011.

"Swaps may be perfectly acceptable for the private sector, where private citizens are free to decide how much risk they can tolerate when their own money is at stake, but swaps should have no role in government, where the taxpayers' money is at stake," Wagner said.

In addition to recommending that the Turnpike Commission terminate all remaining swaps as soon as it is fiscally responsible to do so and refinance, if necessary, with conventional fixed-rate bonds, Wagner also recommended that the Turnpike Commission promptly adopt a resolution unequivocally and permanently prohibiting the use of swaps in the future.

In all, Wagner's audit made a total of six findings related to the operation and maintenance of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and offered 20 recommendations to fix the noted deficiencies. The five other report findings are summarized as follows:

  • Turnpike Commission let employees ride the turnpike toll-free, even for personal travel
  • Turnpike Commission provided more than $4.1 million of toll free travel to nearly 5,000 consultants, contractors, and other state government officials
  • Turnpike Commission is overly generous and permissive when reimbursing commissioners for expenses, and lacks transparency and accountability with regard to those expenses.
  • Turnpike Commission actively monitored the E-ZPass system to ensure correct fares are charged
  • Turnpike Commission monitored, maintained, and inspected its tunnels, but it has not implemented fire detection systems in two of the five tunnels (Allegheny and Tuscarora) and critical project management practices that would ensure recommendations resulting from tunnel inspections are not overlooked.

Wagner's auditors found that the turnpike's liberal and inadequate policy of providing toll-free rides to turnpike employees and vendors, not only for business but for personal travel as well, amounted to 7,000 free rides and at least $7.7 million in lost toll revenue between January 2007 and August 2011.

Traffic volume on the turnpike has remained stagnant for the past five years. During fiscal year 2010-11, traffic volume on the Pennsylvania turnpike totaled over 189 million vehicles, including 165 million passenger vehicles (87 percent) and 24 million commercial vehicles (13 percent).  The total net revenue generated from tolls in fiscal year 2010-11 was $763 million ($436 million or 57 percent from passenger vehicles, and $328 million or 43 percent from commercial vehicles). An increasing percent of revenue (47 percent in 2011) goes toward debt service mainly due to the burdens of Act 44 – passed in 2007.

The turnpike's workforce consisted of 2,104 employees as of May 31, 2011. It is administratively headed by a chief executive officer and a chief operating officer. The Turnpike Commission manages/oversees 21 maintenance facilities, 5 tunnels, 64 toll interchanges, 17 services plazas, and controls a total of 546 roadway miles.

A complete copy of Wagner's audit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is available at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.

Auditor General Jack Wagner is responsible for ensuring that all state money is spent legally and properly.  He is the commonwealth's elected independent fiscal watchdog, conducting financial audits, performance audits and special investigations.  The Department of the Auditor General conducts thousands of audits each year.  To learn more about the Department of the Auditor General, taxpayers are encouraged to visit the department's website at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us .

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General

More Stories By PR Newswire

Copyright © 2007 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PRNewswire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of PRNewswire. PRNewswire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Latest Stories
While DevOps promises a better and tighter integration among an organization’s development and operation teams and transforms an application life cycle into a continual deployment, Chef and Azure together provides a speedy, cost-effective and highly scalable vehicle for realizing the business values of this transformation. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Yung Chou, a Technology Evangelist at Microsoft, will present a unique opportunity to witness how Chef and Azure work tog...
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business in 2016. However, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will drill down to the components in this fra...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Numerex Corp, a leading provider of managed enterprise solutions enabling the Internet of Things (IoT), will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Numerex Corp. (NASDAQ:NMRX) is a leading provider of managed enterprise solutions enabling the Internet of Things (IoT). The Company's solutions produce new revenue streams or create operating...
I'm a lonely sensor. I spend all day telling the world how I'm feeling, but none of the other sensors seem to care. I want to be connected. I want to build relationships with other sensors to be more useful for my human. I want my human to understand that when my friends next door are too hot for a while, I'll soon be flaming. And when all my friends go outside without me, I may be left behind. Don't just log my data; use the relationship graph. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Boyd, Engi...
IoT is fundamentally transforming the auto industry, turning the vehicle into a hub for connected services, including safety, infotainment and usage-based insurance. Auto manufacturers – and businesses across all verticals – have built an entire ecosystem around the Connected Car, creating new customer touch points and revenue streams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Macario Namie, Head of IoT Strategy at Cisco Jasper, will share real-world examples of how IoT transforms the car from a static p...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pulzze Systems will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Pulzze Systems, Inc. provides infrastructure products for the Internet of Things to enable any connected device and system to carry out matched operations without programming. For more information, visit http://www.pulzzesystems.com.
If you’re responsible for an application that depends on the data or functionality of various IoT endpoints – either sensors or devices – your brand reputation depends on the security, reliability, and compliance of its many integrated parts. If your application fails to deliver the expected business results, your customers and partners won't care if that failure stems from the code you developed or from a component that you integrated. What can you do to ensure that the endpoints work as expect...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real results. Am...
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, will discuss the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports. The session will include a working demo and a technical d...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management solutions, helping companies worldwide activate their data to drive more value and business insight and to transform moder...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Bsquare has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For more than two decades, Bsquare has helped its customers extract business value from a broad array of physical assets by making them intelligent, connecting them, and using the data they generate to optimize business processes.
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Secure Channels will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The bedrock of Secure Channels Technology is a uniquely modified and enhanced process based on superencipherment. Superencipherment is the process of encrypting an already encrypted message one or more times, either using the same or a different algorithm.
Traditional on-premises data centers have long been the domain of modern data platforms like Apache Hadoop, meaning companies who build their business on public cloud were challenged to run Big Data processing and analytics at scale. But recent advancements in Hadoop performance, security, and most importantly cloud-native integrations, are giving organizations the ability to truly gain value from all their data. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, David Tishgart, Director of Product Marketing ...