Would you call that "improvement"…or "insanity?"

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation pays more than a billion dollars a year in construction costs for hundreds of bridge and road repairs.   When it doesn't pay a bill on time, a penalty is added–a late fee–just like the kind you pay if you're late paying your bills.

"It's not acceptable to me.  It shouldn't be acceptable to our agency and the public."

That's what the head of the state's Highway Division, Luisa Paiewonsky told us in December, 2009 when we asked why her department paid 1.2 million dollars in late penalties during fiscal years 2008 and 2009.

"We're going to be relentless until we bring that down to zero," Paiewonsky said in 2009.

That sounded good…but it's not what happened.

Since that interview, we've discovered the Transportation Department paid more than a half a million dollars in additional late fees in the last 18 months.

Hiller:  "You're wasting half a million dollars…"

Paiewonsky:  "I think it's fair to criticize us for making late payments.  We're not going to duck our responsibility for that."

Half a million dollars would pay the starting salaries of ten teachers, police officers, or fire fighters.

And the Transportation Department could use the money to help pay for fixing all the car-eating potholes and dangerous bridges throughout Massachusetts.

Paiewonsky points out the state is making fewer late payments.

"I think we've made very good progress, but we're not done yet," she said.

We're always told the state budget is cut to the bone…and that there's no fat or waste.  But this story proves there is.

I'm Andy Hiller, and that's my instinct.

(Copyright (c) 2011 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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