Thursday, January 26, 2012

Complete contractor control of CA HSR

As if it weren't bad enough that Parsons Brinkerhoff, the Authority's contractors, are not forbidden from bidding to build the system (leading to atrocities like the latest Grapevine study since inflating the cost is in their interest), there's the following fun tidbit in the state audit of the Authority, noticed by morris brown at the CAHSR Blog.

For example, one board member disclosed on his statement of economic interests that he was a consultant for Parsons Transportation Company—the regional contractor responsible for the San Jose‐to‐Merced portion of the program— and was paid between $10,000 and $100,000 annually. Although this board member appropriately reported this economic interest, if he were to take part in a decision involving the Authority and Parsons Transportation Company while he had this financial interest, and if certain other conditions were met, he could be in violation of the political reform act, which bars public officials from using their positions to influence government decisions in which they have a financial interest.

Page 32. This is apparently Dan Richard, the new chairman of the board. The inherent corruption and conflict of interest that this represents should be blatantly obvious. Quite frankly, it's beyond me why it was even legal for him to go to work with PB following his work on BART's board of directors. The revolving door from procurement to contractor has been a source of endemic corruption for the military (see for instance the KC-767 scandal); one would hope that state and other governments would be a bit stricter.

The immediately following section regarding the lack of oversight and control that the Authority itself retains over the Project Manager and the inaccurate and misleading information contained in their progress updates is also instructive of the degree to which the high speed rail program has been taken by its supposed contractors.

Honestly, at this point, I think the best thing that could be done for high speed rail in California is to jettison its entire management and sell the franchise to the highest (or lowest subsidy) bidder. If we're going to let the designers potentially build it, let's put them on the hook for running it and making money off its operations as well.

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