Updated Feb. 23 at 7:10 p.m.

The Massachusetts agency overseeing more than $2 billion a year of public construction projects failed to reach mandated targets for hiring women and minority workers in more than half of its projects, according to a state audit released Wednesday.

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

Bump told GBH News that the capital projects agency erred by presenting total workforce hours per year, rather than by project.

“If you aggregate the hours, it looks like contractors are meeting their goals. But individual contractors are not,” Bump said. “The big requirement of DCAMM is to ensure individual construction company compliance with workforce participation goals. And they clearly are not doing that.”

The audit surveyed all of DCAMM’s 127 construction projects over 2019 and 2020 and found more than a quarter of the projects had no people of color on the work crews. More than 60 percent employed no female workers. DCAMM oversees major state construction projects that are not road or highway related, and manages a vast portfolio of state-owned real estate.

DCAMM’s recent annual reports to the Legislature lacked documentation to back up its claim that minorities worked 17.8 percent of hours on construction projects and women worked 3.1 percent of the hours, the audit found.

A 2016 state mandate requires all state agencies to track minority and female workers’ hours on construction projects. The goal for women workers is 6.9 percent of total work hours and for minorities 15.3 percent.

Lawmakers have criticized the state’s failure to hire women and minority in the building trades in the past, pointing to high-paying construction jobs a pathway to the middle-class.

“[These are] jobs with good wages and everybody should have access to them, particularly if the programs are being funded by government spending,” Bump said.

An investigation by the GBH News Center for Investigative Reporting earlier this month found most state agencies have not complied with this mandate, sparking criticism from lawmakers concerned about whether minority construction workers will benefit from billions of federal infrastructure dollars coming to Massachusetts.

"Policies that were enacted in good faith have not been followed up with a good faith enforcement."
Suzanne Bump, Massachusetts state auditor

The findings from the GBH News investigation didn’t surprise Bump.

“Policies that were enacted in good faith have not been followed up with a good faith enforcement,” she said.

DCAMM told auditors it is now strengthening its enforcement and tracking of hiring goals for female and minority workers.

In a statement Wednesday evening, a DCAMM spokesperson told GBH News that the agency has already addressed many of the procedural issues raised by the auditor’s office and pointed to its Affirmative Marketing Program to meet minority, women and veteran workforce representation on construction projects.

“In Fiscal Year 2020, this program resulted in a 91% and 42% net increase in the total number of Minority Business Enterprises and Women Business Enterprises certified to work on DCAMM projects, respectively,” spokesperson Sophia Capone said in a statement.

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

Bump said the auditor's office is making tracking equity in government spending a priority, particularly in regards to federal pandemic relief funds that are coming to the state.

Mary Vogel, executive director of Building Pathways, a program to bring low-income area residents into the building trades, said the auditor's findings are no surprise. "We held meetings with DCAMM to share our best practices to achieving compliance with these goals," she said. "DCAMM gave us lip service."

She added that under existing law, "DCAMM should have been considering a contractor's performance on compliance with workforce participation" as part of the process of certifying contractors to work on state jobs. "I am pleased to see that this metric will be included in the contractor evaluation form. The important point is to make sure it actually does get counted in the evaluation."

Kareem Kibodya, senior policy and advocacy lead at the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, agreed.

“Progress does not come with vague commitments; it comes with deliberate and explicit dedication to achieving specific goals,” he said. “In a building trades labor force that comprises 23 percent minorities, it is unacceptable that the due diligence is not being done, allowing contractors to be given a free pass to misrepresent their hiring practices. ... The commonwealth must do more to better serve its minority communities and entrepreneurs.”

This story has been updated to include comments from Sophia Capone of DCAMM, Mary Vogel of Bulding Pathways and Kareem Kibodya of BECMA.