For Immediate Release
Baltimore, MD— Today, the respective Baltimore City and County Offices of the Inspector General released a scathing report documenting the dysfunction and fiscal irresponsibility of senior management at the Baltimore Department of Public Works.
The audit found that 22,000 of the new BaltiMeter water meters have operational issues, including 14,000 in the city and 8,000 in the county. That means that 7 percent of the city’s 200,000 accounts are being improperly billed. These malfunctions are costing millions of dollars a year through incorrect water usage readings.
In addition, the city and county have spent more than $133 million on meter and billing system contracts since 2011.
In response, Rianna Eckel, Senior Organizer with Food & Water Watch and convener of the Baltimore Right to Water Coalition, released the following statement:
“This OIG report clearly shows what Baltimoreans have been saying for years: This system is broken. Millions of dollars wasted in contracts, thousands of unresolved customer service tickets, broken meters, and ignored audits are hardly surprising, but are still deeply enraging. What’s worse is that while the Department mishandled millions of dollars of our money, they were vehemently opposing legislation to streamline the dispute resolution process and ensure low-income Baltimoreans could have affordable bills.”
“The Baltimore Right to Water Coalition began advocating for the Water Accountability & Equity Act in 2016. The bill has yet to be implemented, in large part because of DPW’s refusal to cooperate. This report highlights the need for the immediate implementation of the Water Accountability & Equity Act and all the consumer protections it creates, including the Office of Customer Advocacy and Appeals and the Water for All affordability program.”
“Instead of throwing good money after bad, the city must reject all forms of outsourcing of the billing and metering system, especially any contracts that would go to the company that installed the malfunctioning meters in the first place. The Department must commit to address these issues head-on through a comprehensive audit and action plan, as well as prompt implementation of WAEA. We must also reject any attempt to regionalize or outsource the system that would transfer control of the water and wastewater systems away from elected officials. We need more public oversight and involvement, not less.”