Firm angling for Los Osos project fails the smell test in New Orleans
March 14, 2010
The engineering firm on track to be San Luis Obispo County’s choice to oversee the multi-million-dollar Los Osos wastewater project is the subject of a new scathing report by the inspector general of New Orleans. [Times-Picayune]
The 28-page report claims that MWH Americas, Inc. has overbilled the city of New Orleans repeatedly, while their critical post-Katrina recovery work lags behind. The report arrived on Mayor Ray Nagin’s desk the same day his capital projects administrator, who had been warning for months about problems with MWH, resigned.
Specifically, the inspector general’s report accuses MWH of overbilling the city of New Orleans on everything from theater tickets, a flight to Las Vegas, Christmas presents, and the rental of a corporate apartment–items with no apparent link to the recovery work.
News reports also indicate that MWH’s contract with New Orleans allows the company to add 23 percent on to the cost of expenses– which, by last June, accounted for nearly $250,000 of $1.3 million in billed expenses.
At the same time, MWH has racked up fees far faster than its rate of progress on capital projects. An internal city analysis found that MWH had billed for approximately 118 percent of the actual value of its work through last July, accounting for nearly $3 million in billing overages.
The new report continues to fuel criticism among Los Osos residents who oppose hiring MWH to oversee their new wastewater project.
In an email to CalCoastNews, Gail McPherson of the Los Osos Technical Task Force indicated she is asking to meet as soon as possible with county Board of Supervisors chair Frank Mecham to discuss the New Orleans report.
MWH appears to have the inside track with the county to develop the collection system and the treatment plant for the upcoming $165 million Los Osos sewer system, despite previous controversy in New Orleans and Cape Coral, Florida.
Critics say the company is favored unfairly by county Public Works director Paavo Ogren, who worked for MWH before joining the public sector.