Investigation finds NYC Transit track inspectors skipped inspections, falsified reports

Inspector general first opened inquiry after reports of track debris raining down on cars below the elevated tracks

June 04, 2021 / 2 minute read
MTA OIG New York

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny this week announced the findings of an 11-month investigative report which found seven New York City Transit (NYC Transit) track inspectors were caught skipping inspections in addition to falsifying inspection reports and have been suspended.

In addition to the investigation, the MTA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) performed an audit to determine how such "widespread deception" could occur without management’s knowledge. The audit revealed "significant, systemic issues" with how supervisors and managers at NYC Transit oversee the work of track inspectors. This lack of oversight contributed to exposing riders, MTA employees, and especially people on the street passing below the elevated tracks to significant safety risks, the OIG says.

“It is appalling that so many track inspectors, on so many occasions, skipped safety inspections, filed false reports to cover their tracks, and then lied to OIG investigators about it,” MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny said in a statement. “Management needs to utilize a technology that will ensure supervisors can verify when inspectors do their job—and when they do not.”

The OIG first opened an inquiry into the NYC Transit Track division in January 2020 in response to news reports of track debris raining down on cars below the elevated tracks. Some of the debris was large enough to cause damage and injury. These events led NYC Transit to spend $15.9 million to attach netting on the underside of elevated tracks to protect the public and employees.

Early on, OIG became concerned that inspectors might not be walking their assigned sections because in some cases, no reasonable explanation could be found as to why the loose debris had not been identified during the required twice-weekly inspections. OIG has investigated a number of MTA inspection units over the years and has repeatedly found inspectors, who work with limited oversight, absent from their duties.

OIG’s investigation revealed that seven track inspectors did not complete their assigned inspections but reported, and got paid, for doing so. OIG investigators also found that track inspectors used their personal cellular phones when they were supposed to be inspecting the tracks, altogether creating a safety hazard for themselves, other employees, and customers; and further illustrating their lack of attention to their duties. OIG’s audit revealed that track supervisors did not verify track inspectors’ walks, either in real time or after the fact.

Once aware of the OIG’s findings, NYC Transit charged the seven inspectors and instituted multiple procedures designed to ensure that workers conduct their inspections. The agency has also agreed to implement all of the OIG’s six audit recommendations to improve oversight of track inspectors. The OIG says it will continue to hold safety-sensitive employees accountable, and ensure the safety of MTA riders, workers, and infrastructure.

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SOURCE: MTA Office of the Inspector General

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