MARTA agrees to details on audit of $2.7 billion sales tax program spending

What the final details of the audit are and when it will start remain unclear. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

What the final details of the audit are and when it will start remain unclear. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

The audit of MARTA’s transit expansion program for the city is one step closer to starting after the agency agreed to proposed details of the probe.

MARTA on Wednesday confirmed that it agreed to the terms. While the agency said it’s waiting on the city for an official start date, a city spokesperson said the audit is set to begin this summer.

In a letter last month, Mayor Andre Dickens wrote to MARTA outlining the objectives and scope of the audit for More MARTA – a $2.7 billion 40-year plan passed by Atlanta voters in 2016 funded by a half-penny transit sales tax.

The plan sought to evaluate the program’s success in achieving its goals by reviewing its financials – all revenues, spending and budgets associated with the program – as well as its structure for completing the program’s projects.

However, whether or not those are the final terms of the agreement or not remains unclear. MARTA did not respond when asked if the details of the audit changed from Dickens’ original proposal last month.

The city did not provide any details either.

More MARTA has come under fire from city lawmakers over the distribution of its funds. Last year, the agency revealed half of the sales tax proceeds have been spent on improving local bus services and other operations. Only 9% of the total proceeds over the 40 years was originally planned to be spent on new bus routes and improving existing ones.

The Atlanta City Council initially called for an independent audit in March in the shadow of the financial distribution revelations and after a former MARTA official claimed More MARTA was short more than $1 billion to complete the program. It also came after councilmembers expressed skepticism about a deal between the agency and the mayor to prioritize nine program projects while leaving others unfunded until 2035.

MARTA at first opposed the audit push, but shortly after the council passed a resolution formally calling for one the agency got on board. The council last month approved $908,000 for Mauldin & Jenkins, which conducts several audits for the city, to perform the probe.

Councilman and Transportation Committee Chair Amir Farokhi, who sponsored the funding resolution, said he is pleased to see progress on auditing the program’s books.

“This is a step in the right direction,” he said. “City Council and city residents are eager to be sure that our public dollars are being used as promised.”