WMATA Needs to Stop Outsourcing

Sure, there are functions which are difficult to maintain in house, but too often Metro uses subcontractors as an excuse to provide shoddy work. Here’s the most recent example from a WMATA Inspector General’s report:

1. Audit of Metrorail Stations Garage Cleaning

Situation: OIG observed unsafe and filthy conditions at Metrorail station garages over a 20-month period. These observations included: human feces and bottles of urine in multiple garages; used condoms; significant amounts of trash and debris; broken glass; unsanitary elevators and numerous overflowing trash cans. This filth was not cleaned daily as required by WMATA and remained in place for days, weeks, and even months.

This happened because 84 percent of the time contracted cleaning personnel were not performing their garage cleaning duties. Moreover, some contract employees were not working their full eight-hour shift. The root cause of these issues was the lack of oversight by WMATA and contractor officials. There was also little to no implementation of controls over the garage cleaning process, or of the contract employee’s [sic?] time and attendance.

Impact: Because of these parking garage conditions, risk of harm to the riding public increases; rodents and other vermin are attracted to the parking garages; and WMATA’s reputation is jeopardized due to unsightly conditions. In addition, WMATA spent over $2.2 millin for contracted cleaning services that were not performed over a two-year period.

Management Solution: Management is doing a thorough cleaning of all Metrorail garages, which should be completed by April 30, 2020. In addition, WMATA is hiring in-house staff to perform the custodial work.

WMATA does this quite often: it treats subcontractors the way ordinary people might treat a subcontractor. The specialist is brought in and does the job. Other than the end result (‘does the thing work?’), many of us are out of our depth when it comes to assessing the work. That’s one reason why we hired a professional to do it. But Metro’s entire job is to run a transit system. They shouldn’t be this ignorant about how to do things, nor should the work be so unsupervised. Ultimately, Metro should be doing this work, so that there is more accountability.

Once again, bad management at WMATA.

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