WASHINGTON — Oversight and contracting failures at Metro risked an immediate loss of millions in federal funding, a new audit report from Metro’s Office of Inspector General found.
The audit of Metro’s Buy America contract award and oversight process found $68 million in bus, paratransit or rail car vehicle and parts purchases did not meet federal contracting requirements, and $517 million of the $1.4 billion in contracts reviewed did not follow the Federal Transit Administration’s nonbinding suggested best practices.
Any contracts not in line with the federal requirements can lead to immediate suspension of federal dollars to the transit agency or to a demand that money be repaid to the federal government. In some cases, vehicles could need to be taken apart and put back together with different parts to meet the federal requirements.
The Buy America rules require most transit vehicles or parts to be made or substantially put together in the United States and use at least 60 percent American iron and steel. The audit found Metro failed to provide proper oversight of its program, did not check before contracts were awarded or after contracts were completed that the rules were followed, and did not maintain proper evidence of 40 different Buy America certifications for several different contracts.
“The reason Buy America oversight is not effective was because accountability for Buy America was not established, policies and procedures were not updated, and there was a lack of training,” the audit found.
On three of five contracts reviewed, worth $61 million, Metro did not perform a required audit before awarding the contract to ensure the vehicles would meet Buy America requirements.
For the new 7000 Series rail cars, Metro has failed to independently audit $294 million worth of ongoing deliveries of new rail cars to be sure they meet Buy America requirements. While that is not required by federal regulations, it is recommended as a best practice. The $294 million estimate is based on half of the vehicles delivered thus far.
Since the audit was completed in early April, Metro has hired a new Deputy Chief Procurement Officer and added new requirements for contractors bidding for work, and more clearly designated a single person as responsible for coordinating Buy America requirements.
Metro has also hired a contractor to review all of Metro’s procurement policies and expects to have new standard operating procedures completed by the end of September.
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