Auditor finds many state-run construction projects employ no women or people of color

The Massachusetts agency that oversees more than $2 billion a year in public construction projects has failed to meet targets for hiring women and minority workers in more than half of its projects, according to a state audit released today.

Auditor Suzanne Bump’s report found that the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, or DCAMM, provided the state legislature with inaccurate reports over a 2-year period, painting a rosy picture of its hiring women and minority construction workers.

Bump told GBH News that the capital projects agency erred in presenting the total number of labor hours per year, rather than per project.

“If you aggregate the hours, it looks like entrepreneurs are hitting their targets. But individual entrepreneurs are not,” Bump said. “The DCAMM’s big requirement is to ensure that each construction company meets the workforce participation targets. And they clearly don’t.

The audit investigated all of DCAMM’s 127 construction projects in 2019 and 2020 and found that more than a quarter of projects had no people of color on work teams. More than 60 percent did not employ any female workers. DCAMM oversees major state construction projects not related to roads or highways and manages a large portfolio of state-owned real estate.

The recent DCAMM Annual Report in the Legislative Assembly lacked documentation to support its claim that minorities worked 17.8% of hours on construction projects and women worked 3.1% of hours, the audit found.

A 2016 state mandate requires all state agencies to track the hours of minority and female workers on construction projects. The target for female workers is 6.9% of total working hours and 15.3% for minorities.

Lawmakers have criticized the state’s failure to hire women and minorities into construction trades in the past, pointing to well-paying construction jobs as a pathway to the middle class.

“[These are] well-paying jobs and everyone should have access to them, especially if the programs are publicly funded,” Bump said.

An investigation by the GBH News Center for Investigative Reporting earlier this month found that most state agencies have failed to comply with this mandate, drawing criticism from lawmakers worried about whether workers of minority-owned construction will benefit billions of federal infrastructure dollars coming to Massachusetts.

“Policies that were adopted in good faith have not been followed by good faith enforcement.”

Suzanne Bump, Massachusetts State Auditor

The findings of the GBH News investigation came as no surprise to Bump.

“Policies that were adopted in good faith have not been followed by good faith enforcement,” she said.

DCAMM told listeners he’s getting stronger now its application and monitoring of hiring targets for women and minority workers.

Workers of color now make up nearly a quarter of the state’s construction trades workforce, with their numbers climbing 30% from a decade ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women make up more than 10% of apprentices in the building trades in Massachusetts.

Bump said the auditor’s office makes tracking fairness in government spending a priority, especially with respect to federal pandemic relief funds coming into the state.

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