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Romney vows to recover Big Dig funds

By Sean P. Murphy and Raphael Lewis, Globe Staff, 2/11/2003


Bechtel's mistakes drive up cost overruns, and company profits.

Bechtel's fee overruns
Map of major conflicts
History of the contract
Contract modifications
Cross section of roadway
Construction cost overruns

State officials overlook and excuse Bechtel's mistakes for a decade.

Cost recoveries initiated

Powerfull allies help protect Bechtel and its bottom line.


This series has generated strong response from the state, the public, and Globe columnists.
More Globe coverage


On Feb. 20, 2003, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff issued a document disputing the findings of the "Easy Pass" series. Globe editor Martin Baron responded with a defense of the Globe's reporting.
Read Bechtel's statement
Read the Globe's statement


Building a reputation
Bechtel has never shied away from big construction projects, but worldwide achievements are accompanied by controversy.
See past Bechtel projects


Review cites flaws at Big Dig
Cerasoli charges Big Dig coverup
$1.4b overrun known in '99
Firm rejects call to offset costs
'99 memos warned of tunnel leaks

Officials disclose more defects
Lawsuit raises Big Dig questions
State to reopen deal with Bechtel
Big Dig hires quality manager
US knew of hidden expenses
Big Dig overrun just plain big
SEC probers to target Big Dig
Big Dig review to target overruns
Turnpike, firm set deal on leak cost

Contracts to be reviewed


Central Artery/Tunnel Project


Parsons Brinckerhoff

State Inspector General reports
On the history of the Central Artery/Tunnel project's finances:
On the Central Artery/Tunnel project's attempts to recover money for mistakes:

About "Scheme Z" bridge design

State oversight of the Big Dig

Mass. Turnpike Authority

The Artery Business Committee


On February 11, 2003, Globe reporter Raphael Lewis chatted with Boston.com readers about the Bechtel series.
Transcript of chat


Any tips? Let us know.
Phone: 617-929-3379
E-mail: bigdigtips@globe.com


Beyond the Big Dig   What happens to the ribbon of land being created by the depression of the Central Artery? A joint effort between The Boston Globe, MIT, and WCVB-TV explores.
A special report

Progress updates on the Big Dig. Info

Governor Mitt Romney, saying he was outraged that the Big Dig's private-sector managers have never been held accountable for costly mistakes, pledged yesterday to hire an independent engineering firm to get money back for state taxpayers.

''Any time you see the kind of inefficiency and waste that's been associated with the Big Dig and the failure to receive funds that may be due to the Commonwealth, you have to react with a sense of outrage,'' Romney said at a press briefing.

Romney made the comments in response to a series of reports in the Globe that detailed the errors of managers Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and the state's failure to make a good faith effort to investigate more than $1.6 billion in construction cost overruns.

Meanwhile, two other state leaders promised to hold public hearings on Bechtel's performance and the state's lax oversight of the company. Secretary of State William F. Galvin said he would investigate the Big Dig's record-keeping for any missing documentation of cost overruns. And Senator Mark C. Montigny, cochairman of the Senate Committee on Longterm Debt, said he would hold hearings into how much money Bechtel owes the state and why officials haven't pursued the company more aggressively.

Romney, the fifth governor to occupy the corner office since Bechtel was hired in 1985, also reiterated his desire to dissolve the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which oversees the Big Dig. Not only would getting rid of the agency save money, he said, but it would also allow the executive branch to take direct control of the project.

Romney said the Turnpike's decision last month to hire a retired probate court judge to head up the agency's cost-recovery efforts fell well short of what was necessary for the task. The Globe series reported that as much as two-thirds of the $1.6 billion in overruns might be off limits to the state, because the statute of limitations has expired. In addition, mistakes leading to more recent overruns have been poorly documented, hampering any recovery.

Romney said an outside firm should review all potential claims that are still viable.

''We ought to get a professional firm to come in and look at all the billings to make sure everything we're entitled to comes back to the state,'' Romney said. ''Nothing else makes any sense to me.''

Andrew Paven, the company's spokesman, said yesterday that Bechtel was not fazed by Romney's call for an independent engineering firm to scrutinize overruns for potential reimbursement from Bechtel.

''Bechtel/Parsons has never shied away from cost recovery or their contractual obligations,'' Paven said, declining to comment further.

Montigny, a Democrat of New Bedford, said the Legislature will call Bechtel and state officials to a hearing shortly to probe why the Big Dig's cost-recovery process has provided just $35,707 since construction began in 1991, which he called ''deeply troubling.''

''There is no question a hearing needs to be held,'' Montigny said. ''These cost overruns affected every single community in Massachusetts, every single taxpayer. . . . The state was clearly outsmarted and outgunned by Bechtel.''

Galvin said he had summoned the Turnpike Authority to appear before the state Records Conservation Board, after reading in the Globe series that the Big Dig had failed to retain crucial documents pertaining to Bechtel's performance. The hearing, Galvin said, was made necessary after Alan Cote, the state's supervisor of public records, did not ''receive a satisfactory response'' from Turnpike Authority general counsel Michael Powers as to the missing documents. Powers could not be reached for comment.

''I don't know the extent of what omissions or deficits there are in the records, but for the largest project in America, there shouldn't be any deficit,'' Galvin said. ''Record keeping was not a high priority over there, apparently.'' Galvin said he believed that the Legislature should pass a bill that would waive the statute of limitations on pursuing Big Dig cost overruns. Current laws forbid the state from recovering costs on overruns that took place more than three or six years afterward, depending on whether the claim is for negligence or breach of contract.

Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly said his office would stand on the sideline while Romney and others fight over a possible refund for taxpayers. ''We're an enforcement agency,'' Reilly said. ''What's needed is a good, long, independent review of Bechtel, especially concerning cost recovery. It's clear there's been a lack of candor and a lack of accountability.''

The Globe investigation, which lasted a year and included scrutiny of more than 20,000 pages of state and federal records, found that Bechtel's management of the project led to more than $1 billion in construction overruns, while the company profited from delays caused by its own mistakes.

Bechtel officials have said that the company's management saved the public more than $1 billion by shortening the project's timeline. They insist that the company has done its job well and to the standards outlined in their contracts.

Last month, the Turnpike Authority's chairman, Matthew Amorello, hired retired probate court judge Edward M. Ginsburg to lead the agency's cost-recovery efforts. Ginsburg, who retired after 25 years on the bench, was to hire other lawyers to plow through thousands of pages of documents.

Romney said Ginsburg can remain, in part because he has already signed a contract with the Turnpike Authority.

Sean O'Neill, the Turnpike Authority's spokesman, said the agency is ready to assist lawmakers and policymakers as they hold hearings into the Big Dig.

O'Neill also defended the Turnpike's record-keeping, saying the agency has ''an extensive collection'' of documents in warehouses and file rooms at project headquarters that should offer adequate documentary evidence for the state's cost recovery efforts.

As for hiring Ginsburg, O'Neill said: ''This was a strong and good faith effort. Chairman Amorello needed to go forward with a reasonable and fair process for assessing and acting on cost recovery.''

Shawn Feddeman, a Romney spokeswoman, said the governor has already begun the process of looking for an engineering and construction management firm that would take over the cost-recovery process. She said no company has been chosen yet.

The company selected will work on a contingency basis, taking a small percentage of any money returned to the state by Bechtel, Feddeman said.

Rick Klein of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Sean P. Murphy can be reached at smurph@globe.com. Raphael Lewis can be reached at rlewis@globe.com.

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 2/11/2003.
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