on the Port of Houston Authority said the agency “has work to do to restore public trust and address the challenges ahead.”
It recommends “bringing predictability, accountability, and a larger view to the (port) commission’s governing structure by specifying clear appointment terms and term limits, and adding a member appointed by the governor to provide a statewide viewpoint.”
The recommendations also include “requiring stricter controls over use of the authority’s promotion and development fund, a nagging source of controversy; allowing for a robust, standard internal audit function; and upgrading its approach to strategic and financial planning, public involvement, and procurement.”
The recommendations are contained in a report from the Texas “Sunset Advisory Commission” which was created in 1977 by the state legislature to identify and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency in government agencies.
The opening lines of the report seem a classic example of damning with faint praise: “The Port of Houston Authority is not a broken organization, despite the image that may appear through the harsh glare of the media spotlight or a cursory reading of this report’s findings.”
Negative media attention follows a year-long series of reports on KTRK
, the local ABC
television affiliate, dubbed “Port-O-Plenty” that have been highly critical of spending by the authority, as well as articles in the Houston Chronicle
The report said “certainly, the authority has had its missteps and the scrutiny and criticism those missteps attract are justified. However, nothing is gained from dwelling on the details of past controversies, except to learn from them and guide the way forward. The negative attention and resulting Sunset review were a wake-up call for the authority.”
The report noted the Port of Houston “faces a period of continual growth brought on by anticipated increases in freight movement due to the booming Texas population, continued advancements in the petrochemical industry, and pending completion of upgrades to the Panama Canal.”
“This growth brings opportunity, but also significant challenges as it coincides with increasingly scarce federal funds for maintenance of the Houston Ship Channel, and a need for alternative funding for infrastructure improvements beyond the taxpayer-supported bonds upon which the authority has traditionally relied.” the report said.
“In addition to these more immediate challenges, the authority must continue to weigh its responsibilities as a governmental entity with the reality of its competitive operating environment, a difficult balance requiring great care to achieve success.” - Chris Dupin