In an investigation released Thursday, the Bureau of State Audits sharply criticized the California Department of Transportation for numerous lapses in managing a unit that tests foundations of bridges and other freeway structures to verify soundness and safety.
The four-year probe found that a technician and an engineer falsified test data in a total of 11 cases, although Caltrans later analyzed the suspect structures and deemed them safe.
It noted that Caltrans allowed the technician who falsified data to have access to digital test archives for eight months after his fraud became known - leaving the files open to deletion or manipulation. Thousands of data files key to understanding the unit's testing later were lost or destroyed.
The audit bureau also reported that the test unit manager secretly misappropriated building materials for personal use and approved improper payments of $13,788 to two technicians for work not performed.
The agency recommended efforts to obtain the misspent funds and misappropriated state property, and improve data handling in the testing unit.
"These findings are very much in keeping with the hundreds of pages of reports Caltrans delivered to the Legislature in February," Caltrans spokesman Will Shuck said in a written statement. The agency has adopted most of the solutions recommended by the BSA, he said.
The Bee previously reported those findings, among many others, in a series of investigations over the last 16 months.
Call The Bee's Charles Piller, (916) 321-1113. Follow him on Twitter @cpiller.