President Fidler Testifies in Support of IG for WSSC

Testimony before the Montgomery County Delegation on Bill MC/PG 110-17

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission – Office of the Inspector General

January 27, 2017

Thank you members of the Montgomery County delegation for this opportunity to testify in support of Bill 110-17. I am Joan Fidler, president of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League and I applaud you for this effort to bring some added – and much needed – oversight to two of our bi-county organizations, which by their very nature have split loyalties and also split oversight.

The WSSC is the second largest monopoly in the state of Maryland with a budget of over $1 billion and 1,770 employees. It does provide essential services but with little oversight. The MNPCC is much smaller with a budget of over $380 million with 2,800 employees.

For purposes of this testimony I’d prefer to focus on the WSSC as it is much larger and provides services without which the daily lives of county residents would be gravely affected. Furthermore, the Taxpayers League has testified before both county councils on issues related to WSSC’s rate increase as well as on the findings of a 2016 study on its operations.

In short, the WSSC operates on a cost plus contract basis with the taxpayers.  They spend more; we pay more.  There is no incentive to control rates so costs will continue to rise indefinitely. And that is why this, the second largest monopoly in Maryland, needs an Inspector General.

An IG would provide independent oversight, would examine issues of waste, fraud and abuse, would perhaps establish a Hotline and provide whistleblower protection. An IG could perform both financial audits and performance audits. What could some of these performance audits do? Examine weak, inefficient practices for fleet and asset management, for example. An IG could analyze the deployment and need for current staffing. An IG could look at the budget default law and publish findings. An IG could investigate whether current rates bear any relationship to cost of service and whether this is a violation of the WSSC charter.

As regards the proposed legislation, there is no reference as to who will select the IG nor to to whom the IG will report, no reference to the role that will be played by the county councils vis-à-vis the IG, no reference as to whether the annual plan developed by the IG will have community input. While these may seem micromanagement issues they could well define the success of an IG.

Also, I hope it is your expectation that the IG will report all its findings – the good, the bad, and the ugly. And with that you have the support of the Taxpayers League for Bill 110-17.