Fewer than 1% of MTA contractors perform ‘unsatisfactory’ work despite complaints, IG reports

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Photo: Trent Reeves/MTA Construction & Development

New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) says very few contractors on its projects perform so badly that they would prevented from getting future work.

An audit by the agency’s inspector general published on Oct. 14 shows that the MTA cuts a lot of slack to contractors that screw up construction work, the New York Daily News has reported.

The MTA IG Report

MTA officials are supposed to rate contractors’ performance and place them in one of three categories: “satisfactory,” “marginal” or “unsatisfactory.” The third category should deny future work opportunities, but this rarely happens, the report noted. In fact, the unsatisfactory rating goes to fewer than 1 percent of contractors, according to the report.

The IG’s office discovered that things haven’t changed much from a comparison to 2019, when it “found cases where companies clearly were performing unacceptably, but MTA evaluators rated them as satisfactory regardless.”

Inspector general Carolyn Pokorny said the MTA should change its review procedures to ensure companies that chronically waste taxpayer dollars have a harder time getting new contracts. “There is no use in a pass/fail test where everyone passes,” she was quoted in the News as saying. “The MTA’s contractor evaluation system has been ineffective for a long time.”

The  IG report advises the MTA to reform its contract review process through the agency’s Office of Transformation, which was formed last year and reports to the MTA board.

Much of the Office of Transformation’s work has been put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Chief Transformation Officer Anthony McCord said last month his team had reviewed the MTA’s open contracts and planned to cut them by $155 million over the next five years, the published report says.

John McCarthy, chief of staff for the MTA’s construction department, said his own team is also working to ensure contractors are more reliable.

“We have taken an aggressive approach to improve the contractor management process including bundling projects together, leveraging design-build and modern construction techniques and putting them under a single, accountable project CEO,” McCarthy is quoted as saying.

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