A report from Hawaii’s state auditor suggests inadequate oversight of third-party consultant HDR Engineering, Inc. (HDR) may have contributed to cost overruns in the project to build a transit system for Honolulu.
At issue is that 19 employees of HDR were given key roles within the transit organization, including top positions overseeing project budget and cost management, in addition to design and construction. The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) paid $9.6 million last year for the services of the HDR employees. That works out to $505,260 a year for each worker.
While HART “claims that HDR employees are completely integrated into its organizational structure, with no distinction between HDR and HART employees, the embedded HDR employees are paid and evaluated by their private employer, not HART,” a summary of the audit report says, noting “that HART does not evaluate the performance of the embedded HDR employees and approves HDR monthly invoices that average about $800,000, or over $42,000 per HDR employee, with little substantive review.”
For its part, HART told the auditor’s office that it “hires third-party consultants because it is unable to find highly qualified candidates willing to accept a City and County of Honolulu (City) salary for the positions.”
In the report, state auditor Leslie Kondo questioned whether HART had moved too quickly in awarding a $483 million contract award to Kiewit Pacific Co.
Estimated costs for the rail project rose to $9.2 billion last year from $5.1 billion in 2012. The project is six years behind schedule. Funding battles for the 20-mile project have been contentious.
Messages left by Railway Track & Structures with HDR seeking comment have not been returned.