July 24, 2014 | Updated 12:00am

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Thursday, July 17, 2014, 11:57am

Auditor: BRA Inefficient, Unaccountable

An independent auditor criticized the Boston Redevelopment Authority's inefficient structure, outdated recordkeeping and its lack of financial oversight when collecting fees from developers and lessees.

KPMG said Mayor Martin Walsh should consider adding a new chief operating officer position to oversee the day-to-day operations of the agency, which controls all development in Boston. It suggested some divisions should be spun off to other city departments if they don't fall within the BRA's mission.

In a response, Walsh said he will use the report as a basis to make the BRA "a more modern, nimble, transparent and responsive agency."

The report, released Wednesday, said the BRA has no policies spelling out how inclusionary development payments from developers should be spent or how the money is collected or accounted for. It spotlighted the Fenway Triangle project, for which it said $600,000 in payments from developer Samuels & Assoc. of Boston should have been paid by June. No payments have been received, although the BRA is still in negotiations with Samuels on its payments to support affordable housing and job creation, according to the report.

In a statement, Samuels & Assoc. said it has consistently made timely payments to the city on all of its projects.

"In this instance, we have been working through the approval process for the calculation of a lump sum payment for all of our development impact project agreement payments at the present value. We expect to make the payment immediately upon agreement on the final calculation," the company stated.

KPMG identified nearly $4.3 million in overdue lease receivables as of April 2 for BRA-owned properties used by private companies and outside organizations.

The BRA also does not have a comprehensive list of agreements with developers to pay the BRA if they attain certain financial goals, such as refinancing properties. The report cited one property that should have paid the BRA nearly $1 million between 2006 and 2011, but the payment was not identified until 2013. Similarly, the BRA doesn't appear to have a comprehensive list of deed restrictions and payments that affect  the sales of affordable housing

The BRA lacks a central document database, contributing to a lack of transparency on agency decisions, and virtually all of the agencies' documents are still in paper form. The BRA web site does contain a public document center, but the site is poorly organized and has limited search capabilities, the report states. Some parcels are listed by multiple names, making it difficult to research past agreements.

The report also spotlights a lack of coordination between the BRA and its sister agency, the Economic Development Industrial Corp. (EDIC), which merged in 1995. The two agencies are located in separate offices, with the EDIC based in the Boston Marine Industrial Park and offices on Hawkins Street. Although they share the same board of directors, decisions by the directors acting as the BRA are not binding on the EDIC and vice-versa, contributing to "confusion and morale issues" among employees.

Walsh ordered the audit amid criticism that the BRA is unaccountable and subject to undue influence from politicians and developers. Former state Inspector General Gregory Sullivan has criticized the BRA for shortchanging taxpayers by granting a no-bid deal last year to the owners of the Boston Red Sox to close Yawkey Way on game days for a private food court. The deal, for which the ballclub paid the city $7.3 million, also includes air rights for the Green Monster seats above Lansdowne Street.

Responding to the report, Walsh said Acting Director Brian Golden has begun addressing reforms and that the agency will review past agreements and leases. The BRA will hire an outside company to review the planning department.

"This report lays the groundwork for improvements that have already begun and will continue to unfold. There are certain areas within the organization that we need to take a closer look at," Walsh said in a statement released Thursday.


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