Atlanta’s audits in 2020: Northside Drive Pedestrian Bridge to start year’s reportsOne landing pad of the Northside Drive Pedestrian Bridge faces the plaza at Mercedes Benz Stadium, though its advocates say the purpose is to link Westside neighborhoods with Downtown and a MARTA rail station. Credit: Kelly Jordan
Editor’s Note: This is the second of four stories this week that look at topics likely to appear on devices and news platforms in metro Atlanta in 2020.
By David Pendered
An Atlanta audit that’s due soon is to advise if the city can expect to recover any expenses of building the Northside Drive Pedestrian Bridge, near Mercedes Benz Stadium. This investigation by the city’s independent internal auditor is one of many that are likely to draw attention this year – including one on e-scooter regulations.
The pedestrian bridge became a flash point among taxpayers after the city named it as a contributing factor to cost overruns in the Renew Atlanta construction program. Then Mayor Kasim Reed strongly endorsed the bridge. Ultimately, the city reduced the list of Renew Atlanta projects, which had been presented to Atlanta voters, to offset costs associated with the bridge and other unanticipated expenses related to upgrades to city-owned transportation and facilities.
The internal audit is to assess the construction management of the pedestrian bridge project. The lead contractor on the design-build project, Tucker-based Georgia Bridge and Concrete, describes the project on its website as, “extremely challenging due to the coordination required with GDOT, MARTA, City of Atlanta, Georgia World Congress Center, and the Mercedes Benz Stadium contractor.”
Amanda Noble, the city’s independent internal auditor, said in November the audit is complete. Findings had been presented to management for response and the audit is to be released once those responses are complete. Noble made her comments during the Nov. 13, 2019 meeting of the Atlanta City Council’s Finance Committee.
Noble said the city hired Talson Solutions to perform a closeout construction audit of the pedestrian bridge project. The audit is to, “assess compliance with construction terms and potential cost recovery,” according to a report released by the auditor.
Noble said she expected the audit to be released before the Atlanta City Council began its winter holiday. The holiday began in mid December.
The audit of the bridge is one of 19 topics the auditor’s office had under review last autumn. The office is charged with conducting performance and finance audits of all departments, offices, boards, activities and agencies of the city. Allegations of fraud and abuse are included, as are all procurements priced at $1 million and above.
The next audit likely to garner attention is a review of the city’s three pension defined benefit pension funds. Noble said the actuarial audits are expected to be released in January. Deloitte is conducting the audits, she said. Concerns over the funds’ management have, in the past, drawn calls for further review from representatives of the city’s fire and police departments, and the pool of general employees.
Other audits in progress include:
Renew Atlanta Wrap-up
- Intended to inform the city’s nascent Transportation Department, the audit is to advise on ways to control construction projects. The wrap-up is to include findings of seven previous audits, plus finds from the Northside Drive Pedestrian Bridge and Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation and Aquatic Center.
- The audit is to review the city’s regulatory framework for electronic scooters, compare it to other cities, and assess enforcement efforts. The city council paused its program to issue permits for smartphone-based e-scooters in August 2019, following two deaths in the city of scooter riders. Any regulations that emerge are expected to aim toward improved safety for riders, vehicle drivers and pedestrians who occupy the public right-of-way, according to a description of the audit’s intent.
- The audit is to assess controls put in place to manage cyber-security related risks. Atlanta’s was the victim of a ransomware attack in March 2018. The city has implemented a collection of voluntary standards, guidelines and best practices that are recommended by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
- The audit is to assess the effectiveness of measures that control access to secure areas of Atlanta’s airport. Topics include badging, perimeter security, CCTV coverage and door alarm controls, according to a description of the audit’s intent.
- Delays have resulted in a pending audit of the city’s 2009 agreement with Live Nation Worldwide, Inc. for the use of Lakewood Amphitheater through 2034. The contract does give the city permission to audit records, Noble said in a September meeting of the council’s Finance Committee. The company also is part of a joint venture with a lease agreement for Chastain Amphitheater. According to a description of the audit:
- “Community stakeholders have expressed concern to the Audit Committee about Live Nation’s compliance with lease agreement terms, which include base and percentage rents, maintenance obligations, and capital improvements….
- “The audit is assessing compliance with contract provisions related to rents, maintenance obligations, and capital improvements.”
The series: Monday – Shaping the News in 2020: Predictions for journalism; Tuesday – Atlanta’s internal audits in 2020: Expect to be surprised; Wednesday – Water war to end in 2020: Supreme Court to issue ruling; Thursday – Mobility in 2020: Region’s long-range plan, Atlanta’s Vision Zero