A contractor who runs bus pickup services for disabled people in the US has been accused of fudging records to make its performance look better and avoid contractual penalties.
The unnamed contractor came under fire in a report by Florida’s Council Auditor’s Office (CAO) covering the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s (JTA) Connexion programme, which offers transportation for the disabled.
The audit found that on 87% of 447 trips examined in detail contractors changed pickup times recorded in their records to make it look like passengers had been picked up within 15mins of the time that had been scheduled.
By making it look like passengers were being picked up within this timeframe, which was the cut-off time for classifying a journey as on time, the contractor avoided financial penalties.
Auditors were alerted to the false times by the large numbers of journeys where passengers were recorded as being picked up exactly 15mins late.
They then checked these journeys against driver manifests to ascertain real pickup times.
The audit also found that 13% of rides were given for free between October 2014 to March 2016 without good reason.
The transport contract is worth $1.3m each year, but the auditors said that because of the way the contract was structured it was impossible to find out how much the contractors might have been penalised for late pickups.
The audit recommended the JTA renegotiated contracts to penalise contractors financially for making unnecessary alterations in trip data. The JTA should also carry out more frequent checks of the accuracy of trip data.
The audit found 83% of 48 users investigated had been given access to the JTA’s booking system, which allowed them to change information regarding their own accounts.
This even allowed users to alter the amount they were charged for tickets, letting them get away with paying less than the correct rates.
The audit also noted that in 2015 the JTA had removed a number of disincentives from the contract so the contractor would no longer be penalised for poor performance, though these disincentives were later reapplied to the contract.
The JTA said: “We are reassured by the fact that the year-long audit did not highlight any major discrepancies,” according to News4Jax.com.
“We have already moved quickly to implement the controls and procedures recommended by the CAO. Furthermore, our contractor has made personnel changes to ensure that their established procedures are being followed. The contractor has also updated written procedures and retrained all dispatchers.”
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