It is more ridiculous than the mysterious Nigerian prince who offers to send you $50 million to hide in your personal bank account – after you send him the account number!
It reminds us – on a much larger scale – of those audacious scam artists who got rich selling still-wet swampland or the Brooklyn Bridge.
Thanks to the diligence of State Auditor Mike Harmon and his staff, the taxpayers of Kentucky unhappily learned last week that statewide, high speed Internet access will cost the state about $1.5 billion instead of the $30 million bargain deal promised in 2014.
In addition, the “KentuckyWired” project is two years behind schedule and at least $100 million over its construction budget.
Harmon’s auditing staff reported the $1.5 billion total outlay would be spread over 30 years and is not likely to meet its new completion target of 2020.
And the idea that private investors from around the globe would pay most of the costs apparently was another pipedream.
U. S. Rep. Hal Rogers recognized the looming problem of no or slow broadband Internet in the mountains of East Kentucky and brought home a federal grant of $23.5 million in 2014.
Former Gov. Steve Beshear sought to parlay that federal money into a bigger windfall through what became “KentuckyWired”.
That’s when the state legislature put up the $30 million in state funds and Kentucky was off and running with its first major public-private partnership.
Estimated then to cost $324 million, the statewide project was to be financed primarily by the Australian investment firm of Macquarie Capital, a subsidiary of Macquarie Group Limited which manages assets of nearly $500 billion and is the world’s largest infrastructure developer.
The state auditor reported that his review did not reveal who authorized a change in financing in 2015 to free Macquarie from its obligation and create a non-profit state agency – Kentucky Communications Network Authority – to issue bonds to cover construction costs.
In our opinion, further examination of who created this colossal boondoggle should start with a state or federal grand jury…or both.