Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Office of Inspector General’

OIG Report says Amtrak Not Reaping Savings Expected in Buying a Building in Wilmington

May 16, 2022

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General found that the passenger carrier has failed to achieve many of the cost savings and personnel consolidations that it expected when it purchased an office building in Wilmington, Delaware.

The OIG report attributed that to a failure by Amtrak to verify its plans.

Amtrak purchased the building in May 2020 for $41.1 million. At the time, the carrier said it expected to reap saving of $50 million by consolidating in the building 250 dispatchers, 400 information technology workers, some Amtrak police, and other employees from locations around the country.

Much of the savings would come from the elimination of leasing costs elsewhere, allowing Amtrak to save on leasing costs.

However, Amtrak later determined it could not move dispatchers from Boston and some from New York because they had co-dispatching duties with local transit agencies.

Amtrak also dropped plans to move dispatchers from Chicago to Wilmington. Only about 40 dispatchers are expected to work in the new facility, which Amtrak is renovating at a cost of $37 million. Only 25 to 35 IT positions will be located in the new building.

The OIG investigation found Amtrak is updating its plan for the structure. The OIG report recommended that Amtrak verify the new assumptions and accuracy of projected costs and benefits.

Infusion of Money to Create Challenges, OIG Says

April 6, 2022

The influx of federal grant money coming to Amtrak may create opportunities but it also will create challenges for Amtrak management the passenger carrier’s Office of Inspector General said.

Most of the new funding coming to Amtrak is contained in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that Congress approved last fall.

The Amtrak OIG said the primary challenges facing Amtrak include demonstrating fiscal responsibility in managing the funds, by being transparent in spending and avoiding fraud, waste, and abuse; building and deploying a skilled workforce, including hiring more than 750 managers in 2022 to replace those that have left and for new positions related to the infrastructure funding, as well as hiring outside contractors; coordinating effectively with partners, such as state operating authories and freight railroads, as well as government at all levels; and improving program and project management, through efforts such as a focus on early planning, providing adequate personnel resources, and managerial accountability.

Amtrak needs to make safety its top priority, the OIG report said, including “making safety an overarching point of emphasis.”

The report said a review of past audits and investigations concluded Amtrak has made “significant progress” in the past decade in managing its programs, but “the sheer size of the IIJA’s funding and requirements presents a potential strain on the company’s ability to manage its current operations while concurrently planning and managing a long-term multibillion-dollar infrastructure portfolio.”

The report can be found at https://amtrakoig.gov/

OIG Finds Amtrak Could Have Saved on IT Work

March 21, 2022

A recent report by the Amtrak Office of the Inspector General concluded the company could have saved $17.9 million in cost overruns on information technology projects if it had more clearly defined the projects requirements.

Amtrak management agreed with the finding of the OIG, which attributed the issue to unclear or incomplete technology project requirements.

In a news release, the Amtrak OIG said investigators found that business department staff did not understand their responsibilities in working with the IT department to clearly define project requirements; Amtrak did not resource some projects with sufficient IT and/or business staff; and project teams did not include staff from the appropriate business departments.

OIG said improving the technology project process could have helped Amtrak to avoid schedule delays, in some cases totaling more than a year, and $17.9 million in cost overruns in four out of 11 projects reviewed.

The report recommended that Amtrak clarify roles to ensure that assigned staff better understand their responsibilities.

The passenger carrier also was urged to develop a process to identify and plan for the company’s technology resource needs beyond 2022 because its IT and business departments do not have a process to coordinate long-term technology resource needs, the report stated.

OIG Finds Tension Between Amtrak, State Partners

February 3, 2022

Amtrak’s state partners want more control over the operations of the corridor service trains that they pay for, a report from the Amtrak Office of Inspector General has found.

The OIG said 18 or the 20 state and regional transportation agencies surveyed said they wanted more control over such matters as fare policies, marketing promotions, payment methods, station staffing, and the equipment and technologies used on the routes that they help to underwrite.

Some state agencies want more control over how routes they fund are managed.

For its part, Amtrak said certain operational, legal and practical limitations prevent it from giving state partners more authority over these decisions.

Amtrak said state partners could have greater control over such things as station staffing levels.

The OIG report said the state agencies that fund Amtrak corridor service have some control over setting train schedules and onboard amenities, but the agencies don’t always have an understanding of how Amtrak assigns the costs related to corridor services in their state.

The state officials told the OIG they would like to be able to request more information from Amtrak about costs, particularly requests for customized reports, and education on the cost-sharing methodology.

Amtrak officials said they generally accommodate these requests but doing so consumes significant time and resources.

State partners, the OIG report concluded, consider these requests for information to be a necessary and reasonable part of the service they expect Amtrak to provide.

The OIG report noted that state-supported corridor routes account for nearly half of Amtrak’s pre-pandemic ridership and about a quarter of its total revenue.

Report Details Amtrak HR Staffing Woes

December 12, 2021

An Amtrak Office of the Inspector General report has concluded that the passenger carrier’s human resources office lacks the personnel needed to meet the company’s hiring plans.

Amtrak wants to hire up to 3,500 new workers in the current federal fiscal year but its human resources department has widespread vacancies that are hindering the hiring process.

The OIG report said 28 of the department’s 64 positions are vacant and those employees who remain on the job are at risk of job burnout from increased workloads.

The vacancies include three of five department leadership positions.

Although Amtrak is considering moves to address worker pay, the OIG report said the carrier has not addressed other competitive issues.

These include such things as a “time-consuming and error-prone” process to handle requests for new positions. Amtrak HR officials told OIG investigators this results in errors in 60 percent to 70 percent of position requests by the time they reach the recruiting group.

The report said Amtrak expects that issue to be resolved after it installs new computer equipment and software.

A Third of Amtrak Engineers Failed to Meet Exam Rules

November 18, 2021

A third of Amtrak’s locomotive engineers had failed to meet company physical exam rules before the passenger carrier suspended the requirements, the Amtrak Office of the Inspector General has found.

The rules were suspended last August. At the time, Amtrak said the action was a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying having an exam unnecessarily risked employee exposure to COVID-19 and employees were having difficulty meeting the requirement under these circumstances.

The OIG report said Amtrak’s locomotive engineers had to have passed a triennial physical exam that met Federal Railroad Administration requirements before the exam suspension.

Among the factors that OIG personnel found resulted in noncompliance with the physical exam rules were transportation department officials being more concerned with meeting the FRA exam requirements to continue being certified to operate a locomotive, and supervisors not having a process to remove non-compliant engineers from service.

The report said Amtrak expects to reinstate the physical exam rules once the pandemic has fully waned. FRA required triennial exams will continue to be enforced.

The OIG recommended that Amtrak consider adopting more rigorous processes to enforce the physical examination requirement and remove non-compliant employees from service.

The recommendation suggested the vice president of transportation should be directly accountable for employee compliance with the rules.

Amtrak Might Not Finish ADA Station Work on Time

September 10, 2021

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General has concluded that the passenger carrier may be unable to finish a plan to bring stations into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act within its stated six-year timeline.

Amtrak has allocated $1.2 billion for the program. The carrier still has 312 stations in which it has sole or shared responsibility to bring into ADA compliance.

The OIG report said Amtrak needs to develop the requisite planning to achieve its timeline.

The report said Amtrak has established clearer lines of authority, responsibility and accountability for its ADA program, as well as realigning the program based on recommendations from a 2014 OIG report. 

Between October 2017 and April 2021 Amtrak brought 36 more stations into ADA compliance.

However, the OIG found Amtrak’s ADA stations team is already stretched, and without a commensurate increase in staffing and contractors, the team will face challenges in bringing the remaining stations into compliance by the target date.

Amtrak has yet to determine how it will use the current 46 contractors and eight full-time employees who make up the ADA stations team to achieve reach its goals.

In particular, Amtrak does not have enough staff to oversee contract employees it hired to augment ADA efforts. That has resulted in Amtrak staff not being able to adequately ensure that invoices reflect the work that contractors performed. 

OIG auditors questioned $81 million in costs associated with the work of those contractors from fiscal-year 2015 through fiscal year 2020.

Without adequate staff to oversee its contractors, such issues could be exacerbated as contract work increases, the OIG report said.

OIG Finds Amtrak Handled CARES Funds Well

December 21, 2020

The Amtrak Office of Inspector general has found the passenger carrier has made effective use of its federal CARES Act relief funds.

The OIG said there were some flaws in how Amtrak addressed use of those funds for state-supported intercity rail passengers service but otherwise the carrier has been effective in its use of and accounting of relief funds.

Amtrak received $1.018 billion in CARES Act funding and through October had spent about 87 percent of that money.

Amtrak underreported its use of the funds set aside for state-supported costs by about $686,000 out of a total of $97 million, the OIG audit found.

The OIG report said Amtrak’s finance department has since revised its reporting to more accurately reflect the remaining funds.

In another finding, the OIG said Amtrak could more consistently apply its coronavirus paid leave policy.

Amtrak OIG Says PTC Systems Could be More Reliable

December 17, 2020

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General reported this week that the passenger railroad expects to achieve positive train control interoperability with its host railroads by the Dec. 31, 2020, deadline, but can take steps to better ensure its systems are reliable.

The OIG said Amtrak faces two risks that may diminish PTC’s safety benefits.

These include a lack of electronic tools to easily access data needed for it and the Federal Railroad Administration to monitor PTC system performance.

This means reports on reliability are incomplete and the processes to manually compile PTC data are inefficient and error-prone.

The OIG said the risks involve Amtrak’s practices when PTC systems do not initialize before a train leaves a station or disengages while en route.

The report said Amtrak does not consistently follow the stringent practices for PTC malfunctions that will be required by the FRA as of Jan. 1, 2020, and that data input processes contain a risk of human error.

The report noted that Amtrak achieved full implementation of its PTC systems last August

The OIG review found at least twice as many reliability incidents in a month than Amtrak officials identified after reviewing the same source of information.

As a result, the OIG report concluded, “reports on PTC reliability are incomplete and Amtrak cannot easily identify potential problems it may need to address promptly or longer-term.”

Although Amtrak officials acknowledged the need for electronic tools, they told the OIG “they have not fully researched available options because they have been focused on meeting the implementation deadline.”

Amtrak officials also cited funding constraints because of the pandemic.

Amtrak has “invested hundreds of millions of dollars” in PTC, including about $370 million from fiscal years 2008 through 2020, according to the report.

The passenger carrier has three PTC systems including the Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System used on the Northeast Corridor and connecting corridors it owns; Incremental Train Control System in Michigan; and Interoperable Electronic Train Management System onboard locomotives that operate on freight railroads where it is a tenant.

Amtrak IG Calls for Expanded Drug Testing

October 30, 2020

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General called this week for an expansion of the carrier’s random drug testing program as a way to improve its ability to detect and deter opioid abuse by employees.

 The recommendation was made after the IG’s office studied 11,356 prescription and medical claims from 2019 and found 113 that met Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicators of potential opioid use.

The review also found 1,157 employees or about 10 percent of those in safety-related positions, has filled an opioid prescription while on active status thus making them at higher risk for impairment while the job.

The IG report recommends testing more employees and testing for more drugs.