Another negative legislative audit of the Maryland State Highway Administration found that the agency failed to ensure proper benchmarks were set for the state’s speed camera program for highway work zones, the wining speed camera contractor’s bid did not comply with certain request for proposal requirements, and tests of the speed camera monitoring system’s accuracy were not as comprehensive as SHA intended.
The audit also revealed additional serious problems at SHA. The agency failed to properly calculate the maximum value of architectural and engineering contracts submitted for approval by the Board of Public Works, used contract fund balances to pay for work outside the scope of those contracts without BPW approval, extended contracts without BPW approval, and a SHA management employee managed a $5 million consulting contract with a firm where his spouse was a senior executive.
This is another damning audit for an already beleaguered agency, part of the Maryland Department of Transportation. Earlier this month the Office of Legislative Audits released a report detailing how the MDOT Secretary’s office skirted state procurement laws.
According to the audit the speed camera pilot program called for benchmarks to evaluate contractor performance, however no benchmarks were established, such as the reliability and readability of photographed violations. Between October 2009 and June 2010 the system recorded 133, 620 violations, yet only 44 percent of those were issued citations because SHA deemed them unreadable.
SHA awarded the operator of the pilot system the contract for the full Maryland SafeZone Program. The pilot contractor was the only bidder in the RFP process. However, the contractor’s proposal was not in compliance with the RFP requirements. Specifically the audit cited:
At the time of the contract award and as of April 2012, the specific speed detection equipment (scanning LIDAR, a laser system) listed in the contractor’s proposal, and ultimately used, was not reported by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) as conforming to its guidelines, as required by the RFP. The contract required that all equipment conform with IACP’s speed detection equipment standards to provide assurance of its calibration and functionality. We were advised by a member of the IACP, who was also a SHA consultant, that the scanning laser technology used was new and that IACP had not yet developed performance standards by which the system could be judged.
The October 26, 2009 RFP required that the proposed equipment record a legible image of the violating vehicle’s rear license plate 95 percent of the time, regardless of the time of day, environmental conditions, or vehicle positioning. However, in May 2010, during the bid evaluation process, this measure was changed to 90 percent, and we were advised by SHA management personnel that this was the result of the contractor asserting that it was unable to meet the 95 percent legibility measure.
Prior to awarding the contract, SHA used a consulting firm to conduct a system accuracy test of the contractor’s proposed equipment in an active highway work zone. However, the consulting firm deviated from SHA’s testing instructions and therefore, the basis for the conclusion that the equipment met performance requirements is questionable. For example, SHA directed the consulting firm to have test vehicles perform 40 test runs in which the contractor’s speed measuring equipment would be compared to two independent radars, one which was inside and one which was outside the vehicle. However, the consulting firm only conducted 18 test runs and only reported the results of 8 of those runs. Moreover, five of those eight reported runs were made using vehicles lacking independent interior radar, so the results could only be measured against one independent radar, rather than two as planned. Nevertheless, the consulting firm stated that the observed results fell within acceptable standards, and SHA’s technical evaluation team gave an overall “good” ranking of the contractor for the applicable bid evaluation attribute. SHA could not provide a reasonable explanation or documentation regarding why the tests were considered sufficient.
The report also found that the speed camera monitoring system did not undergo an independent calibration test as required by law, until nine months after the system began operations.
Read the full report below.