Auditors say MBTA did not properly track fare money; T says it did

State auditors say the MBTA failed to properly keep track of $100 million in fares collected during a five-year period that ended in June 2011, a bookkeeping snafu that could have created a chance for thieves to pillage the T.

“While we found no evidence of lost money or theft in our audit, without a properly functioning fare collection system, the MBTA does not have complete assurance that theft is not occurring,” said State Auditor Suzanne Bump in a statement. “The MBTA cannot properly safeguard revenue it may not know it has.”

The MBTA issued a response insisting that its money was being securely handled and that none had been lost.

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Bump’s office examined the T’s books from July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2011. Auditors found that the T reported that $123.8 million in fare box cash receipts were deposited — yet the automated fare collection system recorded over $225.5 million in fare box cash receipts.

The auditor’s office alleges that if the system were functioning properly, fares collected on buses and trolleys would be accurately recorded, but since 2005, the system has not been able to properly record cash intake.

Bump’s office also found that the fare money is not adequately protected, there was incomplete tracking of fare box cash during removal and deposit, and that some keys to fare boxes were missing. At the time of the audit, 12 keys were missing and 1,313 keys were unnumbered and could not be tracked, the auditor’s office said.

The MBTA acknowledged a problem with software used to track cash, but insisted that no money has been lost by the cash-strapped agency that has had to raise fares recently to help reduce its budget deficit.

The “issues identified in the audit report reflect software integrating issues in the fare collection system – not a loss of revenue,’’ the T said in a statement.

“All cash collected on MBTA bus and light rail vehicles is securely transferred from on-board fare boxes to the MBTA’s revenue department,” the T said, noting that the process is performed securely using a key card access system and is under constant video surveillance.

“While reconciliation is made more difficult by the software and business process issues, all revenue is being securely collected, counted and deposited.”

A reorganization of the MBTA’s automated fare collection program and the role and responsibilities within that program has been ongoing in recent months, the T also said.

In fiscal year 2011, over $448 million was made in transportation revenue by the MBTA, the state auditor said.