The MBTA's seven-year-old automated fare collection system overstated fare box cash receipts by more than $101 million during a recent five-year period, a variance that state auditors say raises questions about the existence of controls to guard against loss, theft or misuse of funds.
According to a 28-page report issued by Auditor Suzanne Bump today, auditors found no evidence of lost or stolen money in their review, how they did find that the $94 million automated fare collection system is not functioning properly and as a result the T can’t be absolutely sure that theft is not occurring.
Following the release of today's report, a spokesman for the MBTA said the transit agency is confident that all cash is handled appropriately and in a secure manner.
"The issues identified in the audit report reflect software integration issues in the fare collection system – not a loss of revenue," said MBTA Spokesman Joe Pesaturo, who went on to say that all cash collected on MBTA bus and light rail vehicles is securely
transferred from on-board fare boxes to the MBTA’s revenue department.
"At all points in the process, cash handling is performed securely using a
key card access controlled system and under constant video
surveillance. While reconciliation is made more difficult by the
software and business process issues, all revenue is being securely
collected, counted and deposited," Pesaturo said.
However, the report says that 12 keys to cash fare boxes were missing and that the MBTA was not properly tracking cash boxes during removal, deposit and reinsertion procedures, findings that raised concerns when absorbed in connection with the MBTA’s inability to reconcile its fare box cash. Also, more than 1,300 revenue keys lacked identifying numbers, making it "impossible" to maintain an accurate inventory, according to auditors.
"MBTA key inventory records indicate that keys that provide primary and secondary access to cash are missing and that, accordingly, access to cash by unauthorized individuals could occur," according to the audit.
Pesaturo said that in recent months the authority has reorganized its automated fare collection program to ensure its treasury department works more closely with its money room, and that an outside firm is reviewing security protocols in the room and will provide security recommendations.
According to the audit, the automated fare collection system recorded more than $225 million in fare box cash receipts between July 1, 2006 and June 30, 2011. But actual fare box cash receipts during that period were $123.8 million. Collections were overstated in fiscal years 2007, 2008 and 2011 and understated in fiscal 2009 and 2010.
Bump called on the T and its automated fare collection system vendor, Scheid & Bachman, to take steps to immediately correct software and hardware problems and recommended that all revenue locking systems be replaced. The inadequate controls were restricted verification of bus and trolley cash receipts.
Auditors also determined that a “speedy box” cash collection system used to avoid delays at fare gates during major events cannot assure riders are paying the correct amounts. The system is also incapable of assuring the speedy box cash collections will be deposited at the MBTA’s Cash Processing Center.