Tracking capital outlay spending: The numbers don’t always add up

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The numbers don’t always add up when examining the Department of Finance and Administration’s capital outlay project data.

That’s just one early revelation from New Mexico In Depth’s examination of the data provided in late June by the DFA.

The DFA database includes several categories for the amount spent, the amount returned to the state and the balance for capital outlay projects. We chose the one in which the numbers most often added up, as mentioned in our methodology description.

But even the numbers we chose may not be correct in at least 70 of the more than 2,800 projects.

Here’s one example.

Take a look at Tuesday listings on the DFA’s capital appropriations search site for projects administered by the Supreme Court Building Commission and it looks like money for projects in 2011 and 2013 went unspent.

CPMS screen shot

But both those projects are complete and the money spent or returned to the state, as courts spokesman Barry Massey pointed out to us in an email Tuesday. That’s one place where the fields NMID used are incorrect, and we’ve updated the data on our site accordingly.

As of Thursday morning, the DFA’s website now more prominently displays two other balances (see the balances section below), which are still sometimes different from one another.

Here’s more geeky detail about what’s in the data – and sometimes what isn’t.

Amount spent

DFA’s database – a single table in Microsoft Access software – has three different categories for the amount spent. One is simply the amount spent, and that field is never blank in the DFA’s database.

A second is the amount spent according to the Board of Finance, which sells the bonds.  and the third is the amount spent based on the state’s  Statewide Human Resources, Accounting and Management Reporting System, or SHARE.

SHARE has been criticized for being poorly implemented and inaccurate.

Of the 2,839 projects being examined by NMID and our partners, 2,205 have differences of less than $1 either way in the three different spending categories. Decimals appear to be used inconsistently in the data, so essentially these are instances where all three expenditure fields are equal.

Of the 600-some remaining projects, about 11 percent are similar to the two Supreme Court projects where the basic expended amount is zero, but the Board of Finance or SHARE amounts indicate spending.

Balances

There are also three balance categories – a basic current balance, a DFA balance and a SHARE balance.

All three balances are the same for 681 projects, all of which have no balance. In other words, the money for those projects was spent.

For more than 260 projects, the SHARE balance is blank.

But the balances reported in each of the three fields vary.

Other factors

There are two different categories for art in public places expenditures, a 1 percent withdrawal of up to $200,000 taken from certain projects of more than $100,000.

There are 183 projects where the art allocation from the board of finance doesn’t equal the other art allocation category. In 97 of those, there is no entry for the Board of Finance category.

There are two different categories for money returned to the state, one from the Board of Finance and one basic category. These amounts don’t match in 328 projects. For 210 of those projects, there is no data from the board of finance.

There’s only one category for money that’s been reauthorized to another project, so we’ll consider that field all good.

Adding it up

In the end, only five projects don’t add up to the budgeted amount when the basic fields for spending, balance, art projects, the amount returned to the state and amount reauthorized to other projects are added together.

In an email asking about these differences, DFA spokeswoman wrote that “All of the information is accurate.”

That may be, but it still doesn’t add up.

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