necn Investigates: MBTA Wasted Thousands of Taxpayer Money on Hundreds of Cellphones | NECN
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necn Investigates: MBTA Wasted Thousands of Taxpayer Money on Hundreds of Cellphones

Auditors found 580 cellphones issued to MBTA weren't being used



    (Published Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016)

    A recent audit by the MBTA found that more than 500 cell phones were being paid for even though no one was using them.

    "In many ways, the MBTA is inefficient," said Brian Shortleeve, acting General Manager of the MBTA. "We're not being good stewards of rider's money and taxpayer money."

    Several months ago, the MBTA started a top to bottom review of every contract it has with outside vendors. It some cases, the agency renegotiated contracts. It's part of a plan to save the transit agency $11 million.

    "The MBTA has a big operating deficit of close to $100 million this year and we're looking to save every dollar we can," Shortsleeve told necn Investigator Reporter Jason Frazer.

    The auditors found that 580 cellphones weren't being used. The MBTA said 553 of them have been disconnected or suspended.

    "We called all of those phones and no one answered," said Shortsleeve. "So they're called dead phones. Why the MBTA had been paying for them all this time I don't know."

    Auditors found in some cases the phones hadn't been used for several months. Other phones hadn't been used in a year.

    "Our total cellphone bill was around $3.5 million and we've cut that by almost $700,000," said Shortsleeve.

    The transit agency eliminated Global Calling, Navigation and changed how many minutes each phone had.

    The MBTA also said it made other changes including renegotiating contracts for office supplies and enforcing its cleaning contracts. Together, it will save the agency about $8.3 million over the next two years.

    The transit agency said it was also closing several banks accounts at Cathay Bank, Eastern Bank, Fidelity, J.P. Morgan, and Toronto Dominion. The move is expected to earn the MBTA over $1 million in interest over a two year period.

    The $11 million in savings is expected to be reinvested back into the transit agency.

    Shortsleeve said the agency isn't done yet. It is reviewing more than 150 contracts to find other ways to save money.