Watchdog rips MTA oversight of big-dollar contractors
The MTA’s evaluation process for big-dollar contractors is “a pass/fail test where everyone passes” and in need of a “fundamental revamp,” the agency’s inspector general said in a damning new report.
IG Carolyn Pokorny’s office found MTA managers gave nearly 100 percent of companies passing grades, allowing “problematic vendors” to “undeservedly score” access cushy construction contracts.
The evaluation process — known as the All-Agency Contraction Evaluation — is conducted for companies with capital contracts of $250,000 or more.
In 2019, contract managers gave the highest grade of “satisfactory” to 97.2 percent of contract recipients, the IG said. Just .4 percent of contractors received failing grades.
IG investigators previously flagged instances of poor performing contractors with passing ratings in 2009 and 2015.
“Capital project managers have a history of rating subpar vendors ‘satisfactory’ in evaluations, creating ‘evaluation inflation’ in the system,” the report released Wednesday said.
“Data from 2016 through 2019 shows that the problem persists — and if anything has gotten worse.”
The cash-choked MTA has been plagued for years by costly contractor delays and overruns. More “unsatisfactory” ratings could have helped the MTA avoid costly mistakes, the IG report claimed.
But Ben Fried, of the Manhattan-based think tank TransitCenter, said the MTA’s problem is not bad contractors, but too few companies bidding for contracts.
“It’s not very competitive, and the less competition, the harder it is for the MTA to get good prices,” Fried said of the small pool of contractors willing to work with the agency.
“The IG should look into that — what’s scaring companies away from MTA business? If more of them were competing for MTA jobs, maybe the agency wouldn’t be so hesitant to flag poor performers.”
In its official response, the MTA agreed to the IG’s call for a revamp of the contractor evaluation process.
Officials claim to have taken steps to improve contractor performance by combining projects together and utilizing “modern construction techniques.”
“We agree that the contractor evaluation process needs to be changed in order to make it a better tool,” MTA Construction & Development spokesman John McCarthy said in a statement.
“At the same time, we have taken an aggressive approach to improve the contractor management process.”