TC officials extend school construction audit schedule

Following the disclosure of a federal investigation into Connecticut’s school building program this spring, state officials have pledged to restore faith in the system by reviewing four years of construction projects funded by the State.

Yet despite repeated promises by members of Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration to quickly deliver those audit results, nothing has been shared with state lawmakers or the public.

And state officials now say the team of independent auditors that was hired in March won’t complete its work until June 2023, delaying any preview of the multibillion-dollar program that local districts are counting on. to finance the construction and renovation of schools.

Kevin Kelly, the Republican Senate Minority Leader, said he was deeply frustrated with the lack of communication from state officials, after pledging to transparency.

“We don’t even get a situation report,” he said. “They just crush us.”

Federal investigators first sued the state for files related to the school construction program in October 2021, and they focused their demands on several contractors and Konstantinos Diamantiswho spearheaded the school building program for more than six years before his exit from state government last fall.

Investigators followed up on that initial request this spring by demanding records from at least four municipalities that have undertaken school construction projects in recent years.

No one has been charged at this stage as part of the federal investigation. But when news of the criminal investigation broke in February, several school principals and local elected officials came forward to say they felt pressured to choose specific construction contractors for their school construction projects.

Those allegations and the wave of subpoenas quickly sparked a political storm in the state Capitol this spring, with Republicans calling for public hearings and Lamont, a Democrat, promising to shed light on any potential wrongdoing.

In response, the Lamont administration announced plans to open a quick audit to examine the prior work of Diamantis, who left state government shortly after the state received the initial subpoena from the big boss. federal jury.

Michelle Gilman, the newly appointed commissioner of the Department of State Administrative Services, told lawmakers during of them separate hearings in March that his agency would present the findings of the audit to the legislature in late spring, before the end of the legislative session.

“The seller should be announced this week. That’s our expectation, and we’ll certainly share that information as it comes to fruition,” Gilman told lawmakers during a briefing. March 7 hearing. “We expect work to begin very quickly and initial reports should be completed by the end of April.”

The results of the audit, Gilman told lawmakers, were key to correcting any “irregularities” in the system and restoring confidence in the school building program.

But six months after Gilman made those public statements, Republican lawmakers say they are still waiting for the DAS to provide them with an update.

Kelly said he hadn’t received anything from the DAS since mid-March, when Gilman sent him a letter reiterating his commitment to update the legislature on the progress of the audit.

“The commissioner promised the end of April, both verbally before the committee and in writing,” Kelly said. “She promised the end of April, and here we are in September with nothing.”

Kelly said he assumed state officials would be more open with the results of the audit, given the importance of the school building program to students, teachers and school districts across the country. ‘State.

Department of Administrative Services officials paid more than $250,000 to an independent auditing firm to review nearly 100 school construction projects and to review 19 related contracts in which the state paid for demolition and cleaning of hazardous materials.

Documents obtained by the Connecticut Mirror To display the agency hired Marcum LLP, an auditing firm with offices in New Haven, on March 8 to analyze those programs — both overseen by Diamantis and subject to federal grand jury subpoenas.

The Contract that Marcum signed with the state called on the firm to update state officials every four to five weeks on the progress of the audit, and he demanded that auditors submit two written reports to the state of by the end of June, detailing their findings and recommendations.

But those reports have yet to be released or presented to lawmakers.

DAS spokeswoman Lora Rae Anderson said the agency is committed to sharing the audit’s findings eventually. But she said the agency won’t until Marcum completes the second phase of the audit, requested by the DAS in early July.

“DAS has been in constant communication with Marcum regarding the status of the review,” Anderson said. “We will continue to provide updates to lawmakers and others upon request. Once the review is complete, the report(s) will be shared publicly with legislators and others.

State records show DAS officials agreed July 1 to extend the contract with Marcum, budgeting an additional $100,000 and potentially giving the auditing firm another year to complete additional work.

The revised contract the state signed requires the company to further deepen a number of state-funded projects by next June. The expanded scope of work includes a review of 16 school construction projects for which auditors could not initially find records, as well as a random sampling of approximately 321 construction sites where the state paid for cleaning of hazardous materials.

The results of this work will likely be the key to any legislative corrections that may be needed for the school building program. But the DAS said it would not wait until next year to start making administrative changes.

DAS leaders, Anderson said, are already using Marcum’s feedback to adjust how the state handles the dozens of school construction projects it undertakes each year.

“Through ongoing audit activities, our team has already made organizational improvements, and we look forward to sharing and discussing these milestones with stakeholders once the project is complete.”