State Legislative Auditor's Office looks in CATS

Photo provided by staff.

POSTED: Monday, February 24, 2014 - 7:38pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 9:12am

A report released Monday by the State Legislative Auditor’s Office highlights money mismanagement by the Capital Area Transit System. The report identified three big problems. The findings shocked bus riders Monday.

"Startled,” Roderick Jackson, CATS rider, said. “I'm very startled by reading this [report].”

“Actually appalled at he idea that this was actually happening,” Brenda Robins, CATS rider, said.

According to the report the first issue auditors found was a lack of bus fares being deposited:

“Capital Area Transit System (CATS) records indicate that from January 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013, bus fares totaling $79,496 were not deposited in the bank. Although it appears that CATS’s management was aware of cash fare shortages during this period, they failed to take substantive actions to prevent repeated shortages and safeguard public funds. In addition, we found that CATS lacked written policies and procedures for bus fare box processing, used broken and out-of-date equipment, and failed to adequately train employees. By continually neglecting to safeguard public funds, members of CATS’s management and employees may have violated state law.”

The second big issue auditors found was bus passes were used and the money wasn’t managed properly.

The report states: “CATS’s records indicate that from January 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013, bus passes valued at $78,648 were used with no corresponding revenue being either collected and/or deposited in the bank. Inadequate policies and procedures over passes, cash collections, and cash deposits allowed passes and revenues to go missing without being detected. By failing to account for all passes and to collect and/or deposit all pass revenue, members of CATS’s management and employees may have violated state law.”

The third issue auditors found was CATS allegedly made improper payments to employees.

The audit states: “On April 26, 2013 and August 30, 2013, CATS improperly paid employees $35,459 for hours not worked and leave not earned. In addition, CATS’s overall payroll practices are not consistent with written policy and payroll disbursements are not substantiated by the appropriate records. By making inappropriate payments to employees, CATS’s management may have violated state law. “

The audit lists previous CATS administrations may have known about the problems. Some riders were outraged at the findings.

"I'm just appalled, because I know as a bus rider and as a transit user how many things could have been done and used by the money that has been misappropriated.”

Cats CEO Bob Mirabito said the problems with the bus fares have been fixed.

"We don't see it as an issue any longer,” Mirabito said. “We have put all those safe guards in place. I can say unequivocally that the money is getting into the bank that we are collecting."

In fact Mirabito said he wanted the auditors to come in and take a look at how things were being operated at CATS.

“So, I feel very comfortable telling the people of Baton Rouge that we are going to protect your money going forward," he said.

The goal was to help CATS leaders identify problems that needed to be fixed.

“We are addressing some obvious issues. if anything I want to protect the dollars of the public," Mirabito stated.

Mirabito argued the CATS policies the auditor used when reporting about paying employees weren't the same as the ones CATS uses now that's why he's taking action to clarify things.

"Because there is a question about it," He said. "That's why we are going to redo all our policies and put it in a 2014 handbook to be approved by the board of governors."

Mirabito is asking riders to give his staff time to change the problems of the past. Riders say they'll try to be patient.

"We got to give the new administration a chance to prove themselves," Jackson said. "Actions speak louder than words."

But, riders have a lot of questions now.

"What about the money? That is my concern. What happens to the money," Robins said.

Mirabito said he hopes to have the new handbook policies outlined by the middle of the year.

To read the full audit report click here.


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