On Wednesday TxDOT released the Management Organizational Review (MOR) that was performed by Grant Thornton. Here’s the link to the report. If you don’t want to read the whole 628 page report these two paragraphs, from the introduction, sum up TxDOT’s problems pretty well.
In May 2008, Texas Transportation Commission Chair Deirdre Delisi, “at the request of Texas Governor Rick Perry, appointed a volunteer committee of 12 experienced and respected business leaders designated as the 2030 Committee. The Committee’s charge was to provide an independent, authoritative assessment of the state’s transportation infrastructure and mobility needs from 2009 to 2030.” The 2030 Committee determined that the State requires $315 billion from 2009 through 2030 (or $14.3 billion per year, in 2008 dollars) to meet pavement, bridges, urban mobility, and rural mobility and safety needs. Despite the 2030 Committee’s findings, some members of the transportation community hold differing views on the actual amount of funding required to sustain the State’s transportation system for this period. [Emphasis added].
The lack of agreement on the amount of funding needed to meet Texas transportation requirements leads to a certain amount of discomfort with TxDOT requests for increased funding. In addition, mistrust of TxDOT and issues around the consistency and completeness of communications on this issue inhibits commitment to additional funding. Some stakeholders said that “TxDOT isn’t broken, it’s just broke.” Others said that TxDOT isn’t sufficiently high-functioning to know if it has the resources required to do the job needed. Still others expressed that whether or not TxDOT has enough funding, until the Department is more transparent and has improved its operations, it would be difficult to justify an increase in funding.
That means that state agency tasked with building and maintaining our roads cannot be trusted with the money needed to build and maintain our roads. Essentially everyone knows, although there is no agreement on the exact figure, that TxDOT needs a whole bunch of money in the future to build and maintain Texas’ roads. But few, if any in the legislature trust those in charge at TxDOT to do what’s right in given the money. By in charge I mean Perry and his appointees – a fish rots from the head down – not the employees at TxDOT.
I know I’ve said this many times but it bears repeating. How can anyone trust people who think government is the problem to be able to use government to solve problems? It just boggles the mind how anyone could still believe that that TxDOT can be turned around without a new governor.
Michael Lindenbarger at the DMN has a much more thorough analysis of the report, Major audit: TxDOT must change its ‘singular, deeply entrenched culture’, including:
Other big recommendations urge TxDOT to:
Fundamentally change its culture.
TxDOT has a singular, deeply entrenched culture that reflects 93 years of service dedicated to providing top notch transportation infrastructure to the State of Texas. This culture, and the ways in which the organization is led and managed, are fundamental considerations in the MOR as they affect every aspect of TxDOT performance. The unifying thread through all the MOR observations and recommendations is the way in which leadership and management practices and cultural norms affect TxDOT behavior and efficacy. Changes in this area are the essential underpinning to achieving meaningful improvements in the areas of effectiveness, efficiency, communications and transparency.
Significantly change its leadership structure. It recommends that TxDOT create three executive positions that would answer to the executive director — chief administration officer, chief operations officer, and chief financial officer. These jobs would be new — even if, in the case of the CFO, they exist in some form today, and should not be automatically reserved for members of the executive now employed, the audit says.
Lessen its focus on engineering among its top leadership, and indeed throughout the agency. Currently, engineering expertise — even a license — seems to be the only coin of the realm that carries any value. That has meant putting engineers in non-engineering roles, just to keep them aboard, and making it harder for non-engineers “to be heard” no matter how strong their relevant, non-engineering expertise might be.
Make the aides to the five TxDOT commissioners who oversee the agency answer to the commissioners, not to the executive director. The report says that has created a conflict of interest. If the commissioners are to oversee the agency, they deserve unbiased and unfettered advice from their administrative assistants.
Divide the government relations staff and the communications staff. A few years ago, communications folks — spokesman and others — were merged under a new department led by Colby Chase, who had represented the department’s interests in Washington previously. The report says that has helped lead to TxDOT’s image as an overly political entity, and the staff of about 50 full-time workers should be divided once again.
Too little metrics, means it’s hard to assess TxDOT’s work. Is TxDOT doing good work? Efficiently? Who knows, says the audit.
Clearly TxDOT employees are accomplishing a great deal of work. However, in the absence of relevant metrics, performance reporting, management disciplines and controls – deployed across the organization – it isn’t possible to determine whether work is being done effectively or efficiently.