A number of ambiguous clauses in the contract document are leniently interpreted by the Public Transport Unit. Visibility and monitoring over the service provider’s performance can also be improved.
Auditor General Charles Deguara presented the performance audit report in caption to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Anġlu Farrugia. This audit assessed whether the contract document governing the scheduled bus service provides Transport Malta (TM) with sufficient control mechanisms to conduct effective monitoring, and whether TM is obtaining adequate visibility on this service.
This review showed that the contract document governing the scheduled bus service, while generally satisfying principles of good practice, has a number of shortcomings, particularly due to the ambiguous manner in which certain performance and penalty-related clauses are presented. When coupled with the leniency by which TM interprets some of these clauses (particularly those related to safety issues), the National Audit Office (NAO) feels that this situation may negatively impact the quality of the service being provided.
This study also highlighted the inefficient and labour-intensive data processing mechanisms currently being utilised by TM to measure the operator’s performance against certain service levels stipulated in the contract. As a result, the audit team noted that this practice is prone to human error and absorbs practically all of the Public Transport Unit’s office-based resources.
This audit has also identified under-staffing issues within the unit’s on-the-ground inspectorate arm, observing that only three officials are deployed, on a four-shift basis, to inspect the whole network. Additionally, while NAO was somewhat satisfied with the quality of inspections observed during its fieldwork, it still felt that improvements could be made to the day-to-day implementation of this monitoring mechanism. This was particularly the case in the consistency by which these inspections are carried out and the completeness of the tests conducted.
In reviewing the Customer Care function of the Public Transport Unit, this audit has also shown that there is currently no formal process by which customer queries or complaints are handled. Specifically, the audit team perceived elevated risks in the unit’s system, whereby progress on filed complaints was not being documented up to their closure. In such instances, NAO perceived the possibility of complaints not being addressed in a timely manner, if at all.
This audit has nonetheless also highlighted the Public Transport Unit’s effort towards extending its visibility over the service in question. This was particularly evident in the unit’s investment towards a new IT system intended to automate most of the current labour-intensive processes, as well as the unit’s intention to improve its on-the-ground efficiency with the supply of electronic aides to its inspectorate staff.
These issues, along with others, are comprehensively presented in the audit report together with this Office’s recommendations. This report, in its entirety, may be accessed through the NAO website: www.nao.gov.mt, as well as on the NAO Facebook page www.facebook.com/NAOMalta.