Congressman French Hill Awards Final Golden Fleece of 2017

WASHINGTON – Congressman French Hill (R-AR) named the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) as the final winner of the Golden Fleece award of 2017 for wasteful spending and an institutional lack of accountability.

In the letter to WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld, Congressman Hill wrote:

Dear Mr. Wiedefeld:

I write today to inform you that your agency is this month’s recipient of my Golden Fleece Award.  I am awarding this to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) for its wasteful spending, its failure to its customers, and its institutional lack of accountability.

In the implementation of the SafeTrack Program, WMATA failed in its fiduciary responsibility to its customers and the federal government.  As reported by the Washington Post on November 16, 2016, SafeTrack was expected to cost between $60 million and $80 million and to be completed in twelve months. In fact, according to the Federal Transit Authority’s May 2017 Monthly Oversight Report, SafeTrack took nearly three months longer than expected[1] and cost the agency nearly twice what was budgeted.  Specifically, the overall costs were $154 million, $75.5 million of which was federal funding.[2]  This demonstrates a lack of good stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

Additionally, even after all of the time and funds poured into SafeTrack, since the completion of SafeTrack, customers are still without the level of service they deserve.  Despite WMATA’s Back 2 Good” campaign, in fact, service hours have not returned to pre-SafeTrack times and WMATA continues to shut down sections of the system for weeks at a time.[3]  This is not the level of customer service that would be expected of a Program costing as much taxpayer and dollars this.

Finally, reports are now surfacing WMATA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) was in a situation that prevented them from operating independently.  Specifically, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs wrote to you recently with their concerns that WMATA does not properly empower the OIG as an independent monitor of WMATA, and they cited reports that any WMATA employee with administrator rights can track the OIG’s work and investigations since they share the same computer network. A truly independent investigator is critically important to ensuring the safest and most reliable service to WMATA customers. It is also important to ensure that changes can be made to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

We all watched with sorrow at recent tragedies and accidents including the 2015 smoke incident that sent more than 80 people to the hospital and resulted in one death and the 2009 crash that killed nine people. Then, we learned of the history of WMATA workers falsifying reports. This is unacceptable, and WMATA must do better.

Our nation is currently over $19 trillion in debt, and it is important now more than ever that we carefully scrutinize our government programs to ensure that we are only funding essential programs and projects while eliminating frivolous and wasteful spending – and ensuring we have in place necessary accountability mechanisms – like independent Inspectors General. While WMATA continues to push for a dedicated funding source, it should focus on safety and improving its accountability to its customers. 

Should you require any additional authority from Congress to address these concerns, I urge you to notify us as soon as possible. I thank you for your consideration and look forward to working with you to address this important issue.




 French Hill

 Member of Congress