$475,000 in fares missing at MTA, state audit shows

November 19, 2008|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,michael.dresser@balltsun.com

A Maryland Transit Administration employee used keys to improperly open bus fare boxes and rail ticket machines, and $475,000 is missing, according to a legislative audit released yesterday.

The audit, which criticized the MTA for failing to track employee access to such keys, said the agency referred the matter to criminal investigators at the attorney general's office in January. The report said that as of last summer, the matter was under investigation by state and federal officials.

The attorney general's office does not comment on whether a criminal investigation is in progress. However, spokeswoman Shanettta Paskel said she could confirm that the office had received such a referral.

The audit by the Department of Legislative Services covers August 2004 to October 2007 - a period spanning the Ehrlich and O'Malley administrations. Among its findings:

* During 18 months in 2006 and 2007, the MTA failed to perform maintenance inspections as often as required by federal rules on two-thirds of its bus fleet.

* As of January, the MTA had not performed a complete inventory of its equipment since July 1998.* Of the MTA's 140 state-owned, nontransit vehicles, 39 were not driven the minimum of 10,000 miles on state business in 2007 needed to justify keeping them in the fleet.

The only finding to result in a criminal referral was the matter involving access to bus fare box keys and the machines used to sell tickets for the Metro subway and light rail system.

According to the audit, the MTA did not properly track which of the 34 employees responsible for collecting revenue had access to particular keys or record which supervisors issued the keys.

For the four-month sample period in 2007, auditors found a discrepancy of $475,000 between the amount recorded as having been collected and the amount recorded as having been deposited.

MTA spokeswoman Jawauna Greene said the agency employee referred to in the audit, who was not named in the report, was not currently on duty but had not been fired. "At this point, we've only identified one person involved," she said.

In its response to the audit's findings, the MTA said that since August 2007 it has been keeping detailed records of who has access to each key. The agency said it has acquired an automated key-management system to track its fare-collection keys. It said that system will be installed by Dec. 1.

The agency concurred with the auditors' other findings and said it has taken corrective action. It said an inventory of its equipment would begin by February and be completed by December.

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