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Walsh sets deal for BRA audit

Mayor Martin J. Walsh has initiated a wide-ranging operational audit of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, a possible step toward fulfilling his campaign promise to restructure the controversial quasi-public agency.

Walsh has drafted an agreement with KPMG LLP, an international audit, tax, and advisory firm with offices in Boston that performs a yearly audit of the city’s finances. The BRA board of directors will vote Thursday night on the proposed operational review, which would be undertaken by a different team of auditors than those who do the financial review.

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While it is unlikely that the directors will vote against the audit, it could be halted if they do.

Lisa Pollack, Walsh’s chief communications officer, said this audit would go far beyond the parameters of KPMG’s financial reviews.

“This is a much more high-level operational look at the way the BRA functions,” she said, “and the goal of the audit is to come up with a set of recommendations to help us ensure that the BRA is functioning in the best way that it can.”

Pollack said the audit would examine the composition of the BRA board, its planning and design processes, project management, workforce development, asset management, fee calculation, staff salaries, and internal technology systems.

The aim, she said, is to “make sure that we have a planning agency that is best in class.”

Brian Golden, acting director of the BRA, said in a statement: “The agency is embracing this review. I have confidence that it will allow us to work smarter and more efficiently.”

“This is a good business practice for our agency, and it should be welcomed by all our staff as we continue to seek ways to improve how we work.”

KPMG would do the work free for up to 120 hours over eight weeks, according to the agreement letter provided by the mayor’s office.

During his campaign, Walsh promised to restructure the BRA, widely criticized during the administration of Mayor Thomas M. Menino for a perceived lack of transparency, preferential treatment for Menino allies, and failure to deliver on the promise of more affordable housing.

In December, the Globe reported that the authority quietly gave a handful of developers discounts on affordable housing fees totaling more than $9 million, while diverting at least $6 million more in housing fees to unrelated purposes.

Samuel Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a watchdog funded by businesses and nonprofits, said the scrutiny would bring greater transparency to the authority and provide insight to aid Walsh as he prepares to replace Peter Meade, the former BRA director who retired when Menino left office.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com.
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