State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released an audit today revealing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) did not collect almost $400,000 in penalty fees from Global Contact Services (GCS), a contractor who mishandled customer service calls and provided inaccurate travel planning information to customers who utilize the MTA’s Access-A-Ride (AAR) program.
“Vulnerable customers are the losers when the MTA does not hold the contractor accountable for repeated errors,” said DiNapoli. “By not penalizing excessive and recurring mistakes, there is no real incentive for the contractor to improve its practices. I urge MTA officials to collect the penalties owed and beef up its monitoring of this contractor to ensure customers are being provided with quality service.”
DiNapoli’s auditors found that from April 2013 through May 2015, GCS, the contractor hired to run the MTA’s Paratransit Call Center – which provides travel planning and transportation accommodations for more than 150,000 eligible AAR customers who are unable to use public bus or subway service because of a disability – was not penalized for making nearly 16,000 errors during the two-year period.
The MTA’s contract with GCS requires the contractor to provide error-free data entry, accurate travel information and professional customer service. Errors can include flawed travel information and mistakes on dates, trip times, number of riders, addresses, cross street names, equipment codes, bus routes or subway station information.
The contract stipulates that MTA shall assess a $25 credit against the contractor for each error that occurs in months when the error rate exceeds a certain threshold. During the audit period, the rate of errors and unprofessional telephone manner complaints surpassed the contractual limit in every month reviewed.
The total number of errors in this time period was 15,837, but the MTA did not assess the $25 credit per occurrence, a total of $395,925. In addition, it is the MTA’s practice to approve a taxi, black car service, livery, or voucher authorization to transport customers who did not receive service due to the contractor’s errors. However, the MTA did not attempt to recover the extra costs stemming from the contractor’s errors as provided for in the contract.
Auditors also found the MTA did not follow through with the contractor to ensure employee training protocols were being followed; that the contractor reviewed error trends in order to address recurring mistakes; and that call center management was maintaining documentation for training, staffing decisions and other contract requirements. Auditors further noted that the contractor’s quality assurance program was not carried out in accordance with the contract. As a result, the MTA had limited assurance that its standards for quality service delivery to its customers were met.
DiNapoli made a series of recommendations to the MTA to address these issues, including:
- Process the credits of $395,925 against the contractor for the period from April 2013 to May 2015;
- Track the cost of services to AAR customers due to the contractor’s errors and recover the amounts from payments to the contractor;
- Require the contractor to comply with quality assurance terms in the contract; and
- Require the contractor to ensure that all newly hired staff attend training and that staff receive recurring training, as needed.
The MTA generally agreed with the Comptroller’s findings. Its response is included in the audit.
For a copy of the audit, visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093017/15s17.pdf
For access to state and local government spending and more than 50,000 state contracts, visit www.openbooknewyork.com. The easy-to-use website was created by DiNapoli to promote openness in government and provide taxpayers with better access to the financial workings of government.