A state audit released today says that the City of Seattle received $160,622 in federal reimbursements for unallowed activities. The audit, carried out between January to December 2009, is on the city's financial condition, but singles out the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) for not complying with federal laws while claiming costs from Federal Transportation Authority (FTA) grants. A part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the FTA program is intended to help in the planning, construction, and improvement of public transportation projects.

In 2009, the city spent $5.4 million of FTA award money, of which $3.5 million went to SDOT, including $2.3 million for the King Street Station renovation project. The audit determined that the department did not have proper controls in place to prevent or detect a $185,921 ineligible contractor payment related to the project that was inappropriately charged to the grant. Since the grant pays 86.5 percent of the project costs, the city received $160,622 as reimbursement. As a corrective measure, SDOT has reduced the amount of its July 2010 claim for reimbursement by that amount.

The audit says that SDOT lacks control over ensuring that only eligible reimbursements are charged to federal grants. State Auditor Brian Sonntag says that his office specifically chose the FTA grant because previous audits have discovered problems with this program.

Although SDOT agrees with the audit's analysis on the ineligible reimbursement, the report says, it disagrees with its assertion that SDOT's information system cannot generate clear and timely reports of detailed charges to federal grants. The audit points to this as the main reason for SDOT not having effective controls to monitor grant charges.

I have a call in to SDOT to see if they want to comment.