Ferries ace their audit — for first time in 21 years

OLYMPIA — For 21 straight years, the state auditor has criticized Washington State Ferries officials for not knowing exactly how many tickets are sold and how much money is collected from riders.

That streak is over.

The latest audit issued this month concluded the troubled state agency had “corrected” the problem with its electronic fare system.

“We’re thrilled we got through a fiscal audit without any findings on ticket sales and revenue collections,” said Lloyd Brown, communications director for the state Department of Transportation.

State Auditor Brian Sonntag sounded almost as pleased to not have to scold the agency again.

“I’m thrilled. They’ve been working on this for awhile. I think they are on to something,” he said.

The good news for the ferry system is in the financial audit of the state Department of Transportation from July 1, 2006, through June 30, 2007. In that period, Washington State Ferries, a division of the Transportation Department, reported receipt of $146.8 million in fare revenue.

Since 1986, state audits have found the department ­unable to reconcile with certainty the number of tickets sold and amount of money received.

Last year’s report stated “progress is being made” with installation of the new gear at some of the 14 terminals but the lack of adequate fiscal control had not been eliminated.

“No system is in place to ensure that all sales are recorded,” that audit found. “Neither our office nor the Ferries Division can estimate how much is lost due to unrecorded sales.”

Former Transportation Secretary Doug McDonald predicted then that the streak of critical findings would end as soon as the new fare collection equipment was fully deployed.

He proved to be right.

“The condition reported during our 2006 audit (issued in March 2007) has been corrected,” according to the audit. “The new electronic fare system has been implemented with controls in place to monitor ticket sales and revenue collection.”

McDonald last year chided Sonntag for what he considered an overly harsh report, given the department’s forward progress.

Sonntag said he had no problem moving on.

“For us, it’s always about accountability and the fact that they are able to provide that necessary oversight of these public transactions,” he said. “It’s equally important that we are able to acknowledge the progress.”

Fare revenues were not the only concern raised in last year’s audit.

The auditor issued a finding that the Transportation Department lacked adequate internal controls on use of gasoline credit cards and state-owned vehicles.

According to the earlier audit, credit cards reported missing or stolen from the department were used to buy $9,000 worth of fuel. Incomplete mileage logs for agency vehicles meant employees could have driven them for personal use — something Brown said last year did not occur.

This year’s audit does not repeat that finding. It notes the department “partially corrected” the problem with stricter monitoring of who receives and uses the credit cards and ensuring workers log in all miles traveled in state vehicles.

“We did make changes to improve,” Brown said. “The result is we’ve had a clean audit report for the first time in 21 years.”

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or jcornfieldheraldnet.com.

More in Local News

Young woman missing from Mukilteo found safe

She called her parents and told them she was at a museum in Seattle.

Mom and brother turn in suspect in Stanwood robberies

The man is suspected of robbing the same gas station twice, and apologizing to the clerk afterward.

Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, is a suspect in the homicide of his roommate. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

Video shows man suspected of attacking a woman in Edmonds

The man allegedly threw her on the ground, then ran away after the she began kicking and screaming.

Navy to put filter in Coupeville’s contaminated water system

Chemicals from firefighting foam was found in the town’s drinking water.

Officials to test sanity of suspect in Everett crime spree

He allegedly tried to rob and clobber a transit worker, then fled and struggled with police.

Katharine Graham, then CEO and chairwoman of the board of The Washington Post Co., looks over a copy of The Daily Herald with Larry Hanson, then The Herald’s publisher, during her visit to Everett on Sept. 20, 1984. The Washington Post Co. owned The Herald from 1978 until 2013. (Herald archives)
Everett’s brush with Katharine Graham, leader of ‘The Post’

Retired Herald publisher Larry Hanson recalls The Washington Post publisher’s visits.

Former Monroe cop loses appeal on sex crimes conviction

Once a highly respected officer, he was found guilty of secretly videotaping his kids’ babysitter.

Families seek to change wrongful death law

A bill would allow or parents or siblings who wish to pursue a suit for an unmarried, childless adult.

Most Read