- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2000

A local House member has called for hearings into Metro's procurement and safety practices and is asking the General Accounting Office (GAO) to look into the transit system's management and procurement procedures.
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee on the District of Columbia, has scheduled hearings for Oct. 6.
In addition, Mr. Davis has sent a letter asking the GAO, Congress' investigative arm, to audit Metro's procurement and management policies, a source close to Mr. Davis said. It would be the GAO's first audit of Metro since 1979.
The subcommittee hearings "will look at the string of problems that Metro's been having," said the source. "We're not looking to hot dog this issue."
The GAO audit and the hearings will examine the "management problems Metro has had," the source said.
Moreover, the hearing will cover a wide variety of topics, including the April 20 tunnel fire and a recent Federal Transit Administration (FTA) audit that found deficiencies in 31 of Metro's 51 procurement rules, the source said.
However, the FTA assessed Metro to be deficient in only nine of 51 categories and gave Metro high marks in its audit.
Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said he welcomed the hearings and the audit.
"It will be a wonderful opportunity to explain the different challenges we are facing," said Mr. Feldmann.
Metro has weathered a deluge of problems this year, from reports of a high-priced consultant being hired without the board of directors' knowledge to a spate of tunnel fires that have hampered commutes and raised safety concerns.
Metro board member Calvin Nophlin said he and other board members think congressional hearings would benefit the beleaguered agency.
"Frankly, this is something that has to be looked into," Mr. Nophlin said of the FTA audit and Metro's safety woes.
Meanwhile, the Metro board yesterday approved a plan to put cleaner-burning buses on the road.
But the board did not provide any funds for the $13.1 million initiative, which would purchase 100 buses fueled by compressed natural gas and construct special fueling stations.
The board asked Metro officials to return in November with a list of funding sources that could be tapped to pay for the buses and the fueling stations.
"The problem is that we have to buy 100 buses in our fiscal year 2001, which is now," Mr. Feldmann said. "If the money wasn't available by 2002, we're talking 13 months from now … and that's a little dicey."

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