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Audit: Metro oversight of IT consultants flawed

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Local,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Metro did not adequately oversee two information technology contracts, failing to check the consultants' hours, ensure they finished their work and even check the math in the contracts, according to a new inspector general audit.

The audit from Metro's Inspector General Helen Lew recounts multiple levels of problems, including conflicts of interest at the top of the department, at a time when contracts represented more than 47 percent of the entire IT budget.

The investigation focused on work by two consultant groups between 2007 and 2010. Lew began investigating after a former Metro general manager, David Gunn, raised questions about the increasing number of consultants and IT costs when he was asked to assess Metro -- as a consultant. After Gunn's report, the agency hired another consultant to review the IT structure.

The Washington Examiner reported on Monday that Metro is currently spending more than $51 million on consultants, while battling in court one of its unions that wants to limit the use of consultants.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said Wednesday that Metro has implemented most of the recommendations from the audit since Kevin Borek became chief information officer in May 2011, including creating a system to better monitor contractor performance. Metro's previous CIO abruptly retired last February. She could not be reached for comment.

The redacted audit, dated December 2011, found that one of the contractors was allowed to write the statement of work for its own contract, a violation of Metro's policies.

One of the consultants failed to provide all of the work called for in the contract, although the agency spent about $1 million for it. The finished projects also "contained incomplete and inaccurate information," the audit said. After the contract ended, Metro workers were not trained to maintain the database.

Metro's own management staff did not develop ways to track work, the audit found. A Metro worker told investigators that he failed to review invoices, and didn't verify hours billed for a consultant who claimed to work New Year's Day and July Fourth in 2010 for $1,370 per day.

Before awarding one contract, agency staff did not review the consultants' past performance for the agency, which included unfinished work. One consultant was supposed to have a degree in computer science or a related field but instead had one in political theory, the audit found.

The agency also failed to detect mathematical errors in one contract, which the IG said "obscured the true cost" of the contract.

Agency staff also directed the contractors to hire specific people, the investigation found, a direct violation of Metro's rules. Metro, however, said that while it agrees in principle with the finding, it could not guarantee that its staff will not direct contractors on hiring.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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