Metro has a controversial history The watchdog agency has repeatedly caused friction with the Office of Inspector General, members of Congress, and community leaders who have called for stricter accountability in this situation. Safety issues continue to occur and progress toward resolution is slow.recent conflicts The agreement between Metro and OIG comes as the transit authority seeks to close a looming $750 million funding gap, which requires significant funding increases from local jurisdictions, significant service cuts, or A combination of both will be needed.
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Febles’ move comes after his predecessor, Jeffrey Cherington, was notified by the Metro board in March 2022 that his contract would not be renewed. Mr Cherington’s resignation follows concerns from Metro and MPs that he needs more autonomy to function properly as a government watchdog.
Elected officials vowed to support the transit agency as the pandemic worsens Metro’s financial woes, but say they won’t hand Metro a “blank check” and explain Metro’s costs and operations. He called for increased accountability and transparency.of OIG report released on Monday, it showed Metro failed to comply with the council’s orders, and Febres’ subsequent sudden firing was seen by some leaders as Metro’s latest pushback against oversight.
“The law requires Metro to have an independent inspector general with broad powers to ensure public safety and accountability. Metro must comply with the law,” said House of Representatives Gerald E. Connolly. Rep. (D-Virginia) said in a statement. “This disappointment is compounded by the Board’s decision to forcibly remove the current Inspector General, an essential voice for accountability, and the second such event in the past two years. be.”
Metro board Chairman Paul C. Smedberg did not respond to questions about Febles’ firing, other than to say in an email that he “does not comment on personnel matters.”
Febres also did not comment. But in a letter he sent Tuesday to Metro board members and obtained by The Washington Post, he said his resignation was the result of an effort to remove him from his position.
“What I was asked was, [the] I would like the chairman to come see me today and talk to me,” Febles wrote in an email containing his resignation letter. “Instead, he tried to fire me. I resigned before he could. I resign under duress and intimidation. You all should be ashamed of yourselves, too.”
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Government agencies have an Office of Inspector General that serves as an internal watchdog to protect taxpayers by rooting out waste, inefficiency, corruption, and other problems that impede public services, while also providing transparency, accountability, and It also aims to increase responsibility and public trust.
inside Federal Government, OIG It has wide freedom and independence to conduct investigations without interference from the institutions being investigated. At Metro, the inspector general doesn’t have similar autonomy, but reports directly to the agency’s board of directors, which has caused friction for decades.
Metrorail’s lax safety oversight led to the Federal Transit Administration in 2015 after smoke from a track fire engulfed a stopped Metro train outside L’Enfant Plaza station, sickening dozens and killing one passenger. will take over supervision of the railway system.federal government The agency subsequently relinquished oversight of the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission. The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission is an oversight agency created by Congress in 2017 to more closely monitor Metro.
The relationship has been volatile since the commission’s inception, usually over Metro’s objections to commission orders and rulings.
Connolly, who helped create the safety commission and ordered Metro to hold annual briefings to Congress, called for improvements to last year’s federal funding reauthorization bill and joined several calls for Metro to increase the independence of the OIG. This provision was inserted.
Febles’ office released the audit results on Monday. A review of Metro’s compliance. The report showed the agency has made improvements in capital planning policies, asset management processes, performance measurement, and the integration of new wireless services and emergency networks.
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Regarding OIG reform, Metro’s board had adopted several resolutions to give the office authority to hire contractors and staff, but the audit found those resolutions did not result in further reforms. It turned out that. It is independent, the audit said.
“At the time of writing this article, [Metro] Management and staff have not made all necessary policy and procedural changes to ensure that the OIG exercises procurement and personnel independence in accordance with regulations. [law]”Despite OIG’s efforts to do so,” the audit said.
According to best practices guide The Institute of Inspectors General, a trade group representing the profession, says that “interference with or undue influence in the selection, appointment, or employment of OIG personnel” is the number one factor that can undermine independence.
Febles’ resignation letter indicated his concerns with the Metro board went beyond employment and contracts. He claimed that Smedberg questioned why his office reported “independence issues” in a public report, but the board agreed to keep his complaints private. Febles said he pressured him to sign the memorandum of understanding.
Febles also said Smedberg called on the OIG chief counsel to “take action,” and Febles said Smedberg was responsible for creating the funding requirements that Congress adopted in the Funding Reauthorization Act. .
“All of this amounts to an environment of retaliation and destructive discharge tactics,” Febles said. “The OIG’s independence is under threat, and the Board is encouraging noncompliance and disregard for the law.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.