Lawmakers want audit of spending on newest ferries

More than a dozen lawmakers today called for a state audit to determine the full cost of designing, building and maintaining the three newest vessels in the Washington State Ferries fleet.

Fifteen lawmakers signed a letter to State Auditor Troy Kelley asking him to conduct the audit of “the true post-delivery cost of design and construction decisions” for the 64-car ferries used on the route between Coupeville and Port Townsend.

Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, crafted the letter and garnered signatures from 11 House members and three senators. The group includes five Republicans and 10 Democrats, all from legislative districts with ferry service.

“We need a full audit that takes into consideration higher than expected post-delivery costs and problems requiring mitigation,” Smith said in a statement. “The signatures on the request letter not only show strong, bipartisan support for our ferry system, but that legislators in the Puget Sound want complete and transparent answers to the concerns brought to the attention of Washington State Ferries.”

She said the request is a natural follow-up to an audit released Jan. 3 by Kelley’s predecessor, Brian Sonntag. Kelley could not be reached for comment on the letter.

That analysis found Washington State Ferries pays more to build its boats primarily because of laws restricting competitive bidding and practices limiting its control on key elements of the contracts.

The 78-page performance audit, which cost $1.15 million and took roughly a year for the State Auditor’s Office to complete, focused on the costs accrued up to delivery of boats and not beyond.

A public hearing on the audit will be held Wednesday by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee.

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