Not tracking your tax dollars: BFT cited for bad record keeping

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Yet another year has gone by with another critical look at the way Ben-Franklin Transit handled your money.

In a new report, the State Auditor's Office says BFT has improperly tracked millions of your tax dollars throughout the agency.

Last year, BFT under-reported money to the tune of $10 million, on everything from grant money to accounts payable. On the flipside, BFT overstated $2.5 million in what was made from sales tax.

It's money you spend to keep BFT busses moving.

"The decisions could affect tax dollars, they could affect fares," says Mandy Chambers, Washington Auditor's Office.

KEPR has reported fare increases and route cancellations as just some of recent changes to affect bus riders.

This isn't the first time BFT has been cited. Far from it, in fact. For seven consecutive years, BFT was cited for bad record keeping.

BFT told the state the most recent errors happened because several important people left the company, including the person overseeing financial activity. It means there was nobody to monitor the books for more than five months. But that doesn't explain all the other years.

To find out why a mistake keeps happening with your tax dollars, KEPR had an interview with BFT, but an hour before we were scheduled to meet, she canceled on us, saying she didn't have enough information to give. KEPR asked her who else would be available and she said no one else would. We checked with the state auditor and they said BFT actually does have all the information.

KEPR always wants to have a balanced story and wanted to give the agency a chance to explain to you what happened. But they refused to speak, saying they hadn't seen the report. The state tells us that's just not true.

"There is a response from BFT that indicates they read our report and that they responded to it, recognizing they have improvements to make," says Chamber.

In those same documents, BFT says it has hired an experienced financial director to track the company's money. She was the person who canceled our interview. When BFT wants to give its side to KEPR, we will put them on our air. Until then, this state report will have to speak for them.