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Audit Finds “Few Results”

Yesterday’s Washington Post featured a story talking about the agency failings at Metro that were found by an audit by Metro’s inspector general. The newspaper reported:

“Metro is overhauling the office in charge of the popular SmarTrip electronic fare cards after internal audits found that failures by the main contractor and agency managers have added at least $2 million in costs and three years in delays for long-awaited, customer-friendly features.”

“Continuing software issues and the office shakeup have slowed the project even more. As a result, features to make the plastic card more convenient and versatile, which were supposed to be ready next month, will not be working until 2010, officials said.”

The newspaper goes on to write:

“Riders have been repeatedly promised these features by officials from Metro and Cubic Transportations Systems, which has been paid almost $15 million to upgrade SmarTrip hardware and software and fare collection equipment, with few results.”

Especially troubling, however, was this response by Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman, who currently serves as chairman of the Metro board. According to the Washington Post:

“Metro Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman acknowledged that delays have resulted in frustrations "in getting the improvement that everyone wants." At the same time, he said, Metro has been at a disadvantage in dealing with Cubic because of its dominance in the market.

"They are a difficult party to deal with, and we don't have much leverage," Zimmerman said. "We're at the mercy of folks whose business it is to get money out of government."

That’s an amazing statement for someone whose job is to get money out of taxpayers. While that may be cynical, if the contracting staff of a government agency is competent, they should never be at a disadvantage to a business they’ve contracted with. Isn’t that why written contracts have built-in safeguards?

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