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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Metropolitan Transportation Authority - New York City Transit
Practices Used by the Transit Adjudication Bureau to Collect and Account for Fines and Fees


Issued: August 11, 2016
Link to full audit report 2015-S-33
Link to 90-day response

Purpose
To determine whether the Transit Adjudication Bureau of New York City Transit performs its responsibilities in an effective and efficient manner. Specifically, we determined whether: fines and fees were collected timely; appropriate actions were taken to collect fines and fees that were overdue; and fines and fees collected were appropriately accounted for. The audit covered the period January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2015.

Background
The Transit Adjudication Bureau (TAB) is an administrative tribunal established by state legislation in July 1985 to provide a forum for processing and adjudicating summonses for violations of NYC Transit (Transit) rules governing public use of the transit system. TAB offers a respondent the opportunity to receive a hearing, should he/she decide to contest a Notice of Violation (NOV or summons). TAB also handles the actual processing of the NOVs including scanning images and data entry of the information, processing of payments, and the legal pursuit of those individuals who do not pay their fines. According to data provided by TAB officials, TAB had approximately 1.7 million summonses with outstanding fines and fees totaling $383.2 million as of December 31, 2015. Transit contracted with a vendor to staff and operate the TAB.

Key Findings

  • Approximately half the NOVs written are never fully collected. For the period January 1, 2013 through June 6, 2015, TAB processed 324,079 summonses. The total fine amount was $30.41 million, of which $16.98 million was collected. Inaccurate information written on summonses, such as bad addresses, false telephone numbers, and wrong Social Security numbers, contributes to collection difficulties. For example, in our sample of 150 uncollected fines, 60 (or 40 percent) had inaccurate respondent address information.
  • Even for fines with accurate information, TAB does not do enough to enforce the collection of outstanding fines and fees, resulting in potentially millions of dollars going uncollected. For example, one of the methods that TAB uses to increase collection is call campaigns. However, TAB’s contractor does not prioritize calls based on probability of collection. Moreover, the number of calls made has decreased materially over the past few years. During the week of June 14, 2013, 50.45 percent of possible calls were made, while about two years later, during the week of February 13, 2015, only 25.18 percent of possible calls were made. This may, in part, be due to staffing limitations and/or certain contract terms, which neither set expectations for the number of calls to be made nor provided incentives that could increase productivity.
  • With the exception of the Statewide Offset Program (SWOP), TAB ceases active collection efforts on uncollected violations 18 months after a summons issue date, although a substantial amount of fines and fees remain unpaid. In the first nine months of 2015, TAB purged $66.8 million of uncollected summons fines and fees because their 20-year limit had been reached.

Key Recommendations

  • Ensure that a sufficient number of staff resources are assigned to: making calls on the call campaign list; collecting collection rate data; and establishing priorities for campaign list calling based on call rate statistics.
  • Establish performance metrics related to the number of calls expected to be made each week.
  • Formally consider for inclusion in the new contract: specific performance metrics related to items such as the number of calls required during a period of time; and incentives for performance that exceeds the expected level of performance.
  • Work with representatives of the New York City Police Department and Transit Inspectors to improve the quality of the identifying information detailed on the summonses.
  • Ensure all NOVs that are not paid within nine months of issuance are referred to the collection agency in a timely manner.
  • Formally explore and assess other methods of collecting fines and fees.

Other Related Audit/Report of Interest
Metropolitan Transit Authority – New York City Transit: Subway Wait Assessment (2014-S-23)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Manager: Carmen Maldonado
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236