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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Metropolitan Transportation Authority - New York City Transit
Selected Aspects of the Paratransit Call Center Operations


Issued: November 3, 2016
Link to full audit report 2015-S-17
Link to 90-day response

Purpose
To determine whether the contractor operating the MTA-New York City Transit’s Paratransit Call Center was in compliance with the terms of its contract, and if not, whether the Paratransit Division took the appropriate actions. Our audit covers the period from the beginning of the contract, April 2013, through November 2015.

Background
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is a public benefit corporation that provides transportation services in and around the New York City metropolitan area. One of the MTA’s six constituent agencies, New York City Transit (Transit), provides paratransit service within New York City, as required under Section 223 of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This service, called “Access-A-Ride” (AAR), is operated by Transit’s Department of Buses, Paratransit Division (Paratransit) and serves approximately 150,000 eligible customers. Transportation is provided through numerous separate contracts with various private transportation firms, as well as reimbursed taxi services.

Transit negotiated a contract with GCS, a staffing/call center operations contractor (or contractor) to operate the Paratransit Call Center (Call Center). The contract was signed on December 18, 2012 and remains in effect for five years at an estimated cost of $152.9 million, with an option for two one-year extensions at a cost of over $87 million. The contractor began providing service in April 2013. The main functions of the Call Center include Travel Planning (i.e., handling calls to make, change, or cancel reservations) and Travel Services (i.e., dispatch coordination and customer information).

Key Findings

  • The contract stipulates that Paratransit shall assess a $25 credit against the contractor for each call handling error that occurs in months when the error rate exceeds .01 percent and recoup from the contractor any additional costs incurred due to those errors. The contractor’s error rate was greater than .01 percent in every month from May 2013 to May 2015. However, Paratransit did not assess the appropriate penalties, totaling $395,925 as of May 2015. Also, Paratransit did not calculate the costs incurred to provide the AAR customers transportation due to the contractor’s call handling errors.
  • The contract also provides for credits against the contractor for deficiencies in service levels. According to MTA officials, Paratransit staff calculated these credits incorrectly. Further, using a different methodology, MTA officials claimed that the contractor sufficiently complied with call handling standards. However, we found that the data that the MTA used for this analysis was incomplete and did not support the MTA’s conclusion.
  • The contractor’s Quality Assurance program was not carried out in accordance with the contract. As a result, Paratransit had limited assurance that its standards for quality service delivery to its customers were met.
  • The contractor did not ensure that all staff received proper new hire and recurrent training and that it received signed non-disclosure agreements from employees, as otherwise required.
  • Paratransit did not approve management-level employees hired and their qualifications, as required by the contract.

Key Recommendations

  • Process the credits of $395,925 against the contractor for the period from April 2013 to May 2015, when the error rate exceeded the .01 percent in the contract.
  • Review the contractor’s performance for call handling/service level in consultation with the MTA Office of Auditor General and, based on call data and other records, make a final determination and document the results including credits to be assessed, if any, for the period April 2013 to May 2015.
  • Require the contractor to comply with the Quality Assurance terms in the contract and to document compliance.
  • Require the contractor to: ensure that all newly hired Associates attend all training and that staff receive recurring training, as needed; and document training by including the training signin sheets in the contractor’s monthly invoice package.
  • Monitor, review, and approve all managerial staffing changes including additions and deletions and maintain appropriate documentation for such changes. Document how each person met the qualifications for the position, if they did not meet the educational requirements.

Other Related Audit/Report of Interest
Metropolitan Transportation Authority: New York City Transit – Practices Used by the Transit Adjudication Bureau to Collect and Account for Fines and Fees (2015-S-33)
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