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Spare Part Woes

Broken Promises - Bad Dreams, A Metro Investigation (Third in a series)

FTA concerned with the latest in Metrorail’s budget problems

Metro entranceA problem with spare parts finds The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority once again in trouble with the Federal Transportation Administration.

Metro is now accused of dodging FTA procurement regulations.

According to the proposed FY2018 budget, WMATA charged $23 million in railcars to the operating budget because Metro managers were having difficulty complying with FTA requirements. Those funds apparently should have been charged to the capital budget.

According to the Approval of FY2018-2023 Capital Improvement Program and CFA extension that $23 million was spent on parts “necessary for railcar safety and reliability.”

According to that same report, the money was moved not only because some parts were not procured in compliance with federal regulations but also “a lack of available non-federal capital funding.”

Tom Bulger, a member of the Metro board of directors, said he wasn’t aware of this specific move of money, but he was aware of alterations to the procurement process to ensure that Metro had parts to repair things.

“I’m aware of the fact that we were running out of spare parts at a fast clip since 2016 and they {Metro} needed to get more supplies in order to keep up with maintenance and the procurement process was accelerated,” he said.

When asked why Metro was running out of parts, Bulger assigned blame to the suppliers.

“Supply. Logistics. The suppliers were behind. We weren’t able to obtain the parts on a schedule that would meet Metro’s requirements.”

Those alterations to the procurement process are part of The Parts Bridging Program, a program started by WMATA to “temporarily purchase parts using non-Federal funds and procurement rules until December 2017,” according to the Approval of OneYear Extension of Parts Bridging Program (PMP) and Update on Parts Procurement Program. Last October, the enrollment deadline was extended until December 31 of this year and the initial contract end date was extended until June 30, 2023. According to that report, the program was started after a board resolution imposed “heightened standards on parts procurement.”

However, according to that same report, Metro was also running out of parts. The report states that “In the 2015 Annual Vital Signs Report, the Office of Performance (CPO) noted its findings that the high non availability rates of revenue service vehicles were attributable in part to inventory part shortages throughout the warehouse system. This shortage of inventory parts was having an adverse effect on safety and on time service within the transit system.”

According to that report, “the existing procurement methods used by Metro could not correct this deficiency.”

According to the documents, a goal of the program is to - after the fact - request waivers for contracts that didn’t follow FTA regulations or be eligible for reimbursements from the FTA from any given part in the program.

According to FTA spokesman Steven Taubenkibel, the use of local funds is a local decision.

WMATA has been accused of breaking FTA regulations before.

In 2014, a damning FTA audit revealed WMATA’s misuse of grant money, which included WMATA incurring unallowable expenditures and underreporting $42 million in federal expenditures. According to the report, WMATA also offered a contract without soliciting the three bids necessary to make that contract competitive. According to the 2014 audit, Metro didn’t have the internal controls to properly manage their grant money, although the final report of the audit included documents that acknowledged Metro’s progress on improving its internal controls.

Carol Kissal, the CFO of the Metro at the time and the person to whom some of the problem departments reported too departed.

“It’s all been cleaned up as far as I know,” said Bulger. “It better be.”

“When the changeover came there was a different way for accounting for hours spent and parts and personnel that seems to be working better,” he said about the changes to Metro’s operations after the audit. And we brought in a new CFO from Chicago.”

FTA today still requires Metro to carry out corrective actions for safety and they oversee how WMATA uses federal grant money. According to the FY2017 budget, WMATA’s operating personnel budget decreased by $21.6 million, primarily because WMATA moved expenses for the required safety actions to the Capital Improvement Program. In that same year, that decrease was offset by increases for FTA required safety actions.

Earlier, FTA diverted a large sum of money into safety spending

According to FTA correspondence with WMATA, FTA diverted $20 million of non-safety spending into safety spending, $10 million away from pressure washing and cosmetic maintenance of the stations and $10 million away from open bankcard and automatic fare collection systems. They then put that money into SafeTrack.

FTA management is also apparently unhappy with the local governments and their failure to provide for adequate safety oversight for local transit. According to FTA correspondence with local governments in early 2017, FTA withheld federal grant money from local transit companies, including Metro, until a new safety oversight program could be certified and it is unclear if that has even happened yet.

“The U.S. Department of Transportation advised the Governors and Mayor that their respective jurisdictions may be subject to the withholding of up to five percent of their FY 2017 Urbanized Area formula funds if they did not collectively establish a State Safety Oversight Program (SSOP) for the rail operations of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metrorail), certified by FTA, by February 9, 2017,” reads the correspondence. “They have not met that deadline.”

@CKomatsoulis

 

Last modified onFriday, 22 September 2017 02:38
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