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Report: System can't keep MTA from rehiring flawed contractors

A system in place to prevent the MTA from rehiring contractors that have performed unsatisfactory work for its transit agencies in the past is plagued with problems, and the Long Island Rail Road is among its worst offenders, a report issued by the MTA inspector general said Tuesday.

The LIRR has provided no training in the past three years to managers on how to use the "All-Agency Contractor Evaluation system," the report from the office of Barry Kluger said.

The report also said that the LIRR's frequent delays in issuing the evaluations have led to other Metropolitan Transportation Authority agencies unknowingly rewarding one problematic contractor, who received nearly $25 million in new work between 2006 and 2008.

"Evaluations, especially those with 'unsatisfactory' ratings, must be disclosed promptly throughout the MTA," Kluger said Tuesday. "The cost of untimeliness can be enormous."

The MTA has agreed to implement many recommendations made by Kluger's office, including better manager training, closer monitoring of the evaluations and stricter guidelines for positive rankings.

"Too often we have let our contractors slide when they fail to perform," said MTA chief executive and chairman Jay Walder, who said he would personally oversee the implementation of Kluger's recommendations.

According to the report, one of the biggest problems with the evaluation system is the "institutional reluctance" by MTA managers to give bad reviews to contractors - even those who have performed obviously substandard work.

Of the 2,579 evaluations entered by the MTA's agencies between 2006 and 2008, just 114, or 4.4 percent, classified contractors as "marginal." Only 19, or 0.7 percent, were "unsatisfactory," according to the report. All others received a grade of "satisfactory."

The high marks contradicted "significant contractor performance problems" identified by Kluger's office, such as poor construction that could mean potential safety problems.

"One particularly disturbing reason given by many of these managers is that they felt pressure to upgrade ratings of 'unsatisfactory' to prevent important agency contractors from being precluded from bidding on future work," the report said.

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