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Inspector general: Baltimore finance department failed to bill company more than $46,000 for transportation permits

Baltimore Sun logoBaltimore Sun 12/2/2021 McKenna Oxenden, Baltimore Sun
City Hall building in downtown Baltimore. © Ulysses Muñoz City Hall building in downtown Baltimore.

Baltimore City’s finance department failed to invoice several companies for transportation permits, resulting in a loss of more than $46,000, according to a new report by the Office of the Inspector General.

The permits in question are issued for driveways and curb modifications, cranes, storage containers, street or alley closures, placement of scaffolding, dumpsters or moving trucks, and street/utility cuts for installation or repair of utility services, among other things. Each type of project that requires a ROW permit has an associated fee based on a Department of Transportation fee schedule.

The city agency said in the report that it started investigating after receiving multiple complaints between October 2020 and March 2021 that two executive level DOT employees were using their power to avoid protocol for the Right of Way permit process, causing financial loss for the city. During the investigation, the inspector general did not find any evidence to support the claims.

However, the investigation did reveal that the finance department has failed to collect $46,660 in ROW permit fees from one company due to untimely invoicing practices.

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In response to the investigation, the finance department told the inspector general that they are notified by the transportation department through email about who and what to charge.

Yoanna X. Moisides, a deputy in the Department of Finance, said in the letter that they were unaware of any billing issues. Going forward, the department said, it will encourage enhanced protocols of copying more individuals on emails and greater correspondence, including email confirmations confirming billing requests have been received. Additionally, the department will explore additional monthly reporting of ROW billings to help monitor amounts unbilled or uncollected.

The inspector general said more companies may have been improperly charged because the systems used by the finance and transportation departments is not capable of automatically capturing all fees associated with ROW permits. Also, the investigation was limited in its scope to the companies in the complaint.

Additionally, the transportation department also gave another company a one-year window to conduct its work, but only charged them as though they were issued a two-week permit, no matter how long the work took, the investigation found. While there was no formal agreement between the city and the company, it had become standard operating procedure.

The inspector general suggested the city and company consider implementing a formalized agreement since the company does generally finish its work within the two-week period. In a letter to the inspector general in response to its report, the transportation department agreed to begin working with the law department to create a standard protocol.

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