Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Office of Inspector General’

Amtrak OIG Cites Lack of Communication in Development of Airo Equipment

December 28, 2022

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General has concluded that communication issues are responsible for delays in developing new equipment, cost increases and changes in equipment orders.

Those effects have been particularly felt in the development of the Airo equipment that is expected to replace Amfleet cars in the coming years.

The OIG cited the failure of Amtrak management to consult with food and beverage personnel or with product development officials on the design of food-service cars before signing the contract with Siemens Mobility to build the Airo equipment.

After Amtrak’s food and beverage personnel did have a chance to review the design of Airo food service cars, they said the placement of the galley layout was inadequate because it would result in insufficient food storage space.

The design also was faulted for not providing enough space for passengers to stand or move through the food service car.

Amtrak management did agree to change the design of the food service cars, but that cost the passenger carrier $42.5 million for change orders and will delay delivery of the cars by more than five months.  

The OIG also found similar problems occurred regarding plans to update maintenance facilities to accommodate the new equipment.

By the time Amtrak assigned staff to lead design and construction at the facilities, it was 11 months after the engineering department had begun its work.

In Seattle, local officials said the design needed to be changed to avoid problems with maintenance and commuter-train operations.

Design work thus had to be stopped while Amtrak held workshops at all 21 maintenance facilities. The OIG report said this could delay construction at those facilities by 10 to 13 months.

The report recommended that Amtrak “establish and implement controls” to identify all relevant stakeholders “to specify requirements early for all major capital programs.

The OIG said it will continued to monitor and audit the Airo program.

Amtrak management agreed with the OIG report and has taken steps to address the issues the report identified.

Amtrak OIG Urges Better Key Security

December 16, 2022

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General is urging the passenger carrier to take better care of the distribution, tracking, and retrieval of keys that control access to critical and sensitive infrastructure.

The report said the OIG investigation was prompted by an incident last July in which an Amtrak worker in Florida sought to sell switch and other railroad keys.

That worker subsequently was charged by state authorities for attempting to sell the keys and for receiving stolen property.

The OIG report said lack of security of keys to critical locations “could give bad actors an opportunity to disrupt train operations.”

Although the OIG report concluded it is not feasible to recover thousands of keys already in the public domain and that re-keying the thousands of locks involved would be cost-prohibitive, Amtrak can take steps to provide better security for its keys.

That includes development of a company-wide key management policy and assigning roles for key control.

Other recommendations included identifying and managing keys in circulation through an inventory of keys currently in possession of employee and contractors, retrieval of keys from those who no longer need them for current work duties or are about to leave the company, and establishment of a regular process to update that key inventory.

Finally, the OIG said Amtrak could establish a centralized method of tracking keys, such as key management software.

In a news release, the Amtrak OIG said Amtrak management agreed with these recommendations and will implement some of them by May 3l, 2023, and others by Sept, 30, 2024.

Amtrak OIG Report Finds Company Could Do More to Reduce Excess Locomotive Idling

October 22, 2022

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General said this week the passenger carrier could be doing more to reduce excess locomotive idling in order to be more environmentally friendly.

The OIG report added that Amtrak should train its employees to better understand the corporation’s sustainability goals.

Taking those steps, the OIG report said, will help Amtrak achieve its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increase the purchase of carbon free and renewable electricity.

Amtrak has set a goal of reducing GHG emissions to 40 percent below its 2010 baseline by 2030.

Aside from purchasing locomotives that emit fewer emissions, Amtrak also is seeking to use more energy-efficient LED lighting in its facilities and stations.

It also has reduced idling of locomotives by 21 percent during the period of October 2016 through March 2022.

Amtrak has installed automatic engine stop/start devices on locomotives that shut them down after two hours of idling except during prescribed circumstances such as cold temperatures or a need to maintain air pressure in brake lines.

However, the OIG found that the passenger carrier “could take additional steps to more easily achieve these goals, including leveraging data it already gathers to further reduce excessive idling of its diesel locomotives and mandating training on sustainability goals for management staff.”

Taking those steps also would reduce fuel costs and engine wear.

The OIG investigation determined that in Chicago there were 500 times in June 2021 when a locomotive shut down after two or more hours of idling but was restarted less than 30 minutes later.

Such incidents can indicate a mechanical problem or maintenance error such as a leaking air hose.

The OIG also found that Amtrak was not currently using data it has available to better track when idling locomotives are or are not providing head-end power to passenger cars.

The report recommended that Amtrak further analyze the data it already collects and collect additional data to identify opportunities to reduce excess idling. This could include analyzing trend data on excess idling over time, by location, and by locomotive. 

That data could then be used to establish and implement a process to reduce excess idling company wide and provide real-time alerts for the mechanical staff that would allow them to make needed repairs to prevent excess idling. 

Amtrak management agreed with the OIG report’s findings and indicated it plans to take action by September 2023 to address them.

Amtrak Lacks Central Depository for Contracts

August 21, 2022

Amtrak lacks a centralized automated repository for contract, the carriers inspector general has found.

Consequently, the investigation determined this could pose legal and financial risks

Investigators said Amtrak stores contracts in multiple locations, which could affect its ability to determine the total number of contracts, suppliers, and other contract information.

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General said the lack of a central location to store contracts is being exacerbated by the influx of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funds and the initiation of new construction projects.

OIG auditors were unable to determine the total number of company contracts, suppliers and change orders when using Ariba on Demand, a vendor hired by Amtrak.

Amtrak also could not readily find such data in Ariba on Demand or any other system.

Although Ariba on Demand is functioning well as an approval and workflow system, there is “limited ability to protect sensitive information, difficulties registering suppliers, and various technical limitations that require manual workarounds and increase the time and effort necessary to develop and manage construction contracts,” the OIG report said.

Similar issues with contract storage were found by the OIG in 2018 when Amtrak’s lack of an enterprise-wide contract management system exposed it to risks and recommended the company address this gap.

 “The company stated it planned to use Ariba on Demand and an accompanying contract management module for this purpose,” the most current OIG report said.

“As the company transitioned to Ariba on Demand, however, officials began to recognize that it may not fulfill Amtrak’s needs as an automated enterprise-wide contract repository. More recently, company officials told the OIG that they have yet to fully investigate Ariba on Demand’s capabilities, and certain departments have no plans to use it as a contract repository.”

The OIG report recommended that Amtrak determine whether Ariba on Demand has the capability to meet its needs for an automated contract repository and, if not, explore other viable solutions.”

Amtrak management agreed with the OIG report’s finding and indicated it would address them by March 2023.

OIG Says Amtrak Could do More to Hire Engineering Personnel, Including Managers

July 16, 2022

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General has issued a report created by its human resources department concluding the passenger carrier could do more to hire engineers, including engineering project managers, for infrastructure projects.

The report said Amtrak has sought to improve its hiring and retention of engineers but needs to hire 63 additional engineering personnel by Sept. 30 when the current federal fiscal year ends. Amtrak has 393 engineers across its system.

An influx of federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is providing Amtrak the opportunity to build, repair and restore its infrastructure.

Some of those Amtrak is seeking to hire need to have unique skills sets, such as knowledge of how to manage overhead catenary systems, the OIG report said.

To attract and keep engineering managers Amtrak has taken such steps as benchmarking management compensation with market rates; increasing salaries for field engineers; improving work-life balance practices; and offering one-time signing bonuses for employees who move into management.

Yet the OIG report said Amtrak has fallen behind on this process and could analyze workforce data to help it better assess its recruitment and retention efforts.

The OIG made three recommendations that Amtrak management has agreed to adopt. They include:

  • Establish formal compensation policies that define a schedule for regularly conducting analyses to identify whether the company is offering market-competitive salaries and communicate the policy to all relevant parties.
  •  Routinely analyze common workforce metrics, such as employee turnover and share the metrics with relevant departments through existing workforce management tools.
  • Use the common workforce metrics to assess the effectiveness of recent efforts to address compensation or work-life balance issues and determine whether further adjustments are needed.

The Amtrak human resources department, OIG report said, is “fully aware of the difficulties of recruiting and retaining skilled engineering managers in today’s labor market and has taken steps to address them.”

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.