Muni audit finds millions of dollars in savings

May 11, 2010 8:18:08 PM PDT
San Francisco's beleaguered transit system is under the microscope with its first management audit in more than a decade. The results came out on Tuesday and shows millions of dollars could be saved if changes are made to city law.

Muni just implemented the deepest service cuts in its history, impacting nearly every single line in order to close its budget deficit. This audit examines the Muni board of directors and the scheduling practices for Muni drivers. There are 22 recommendations that could save millions.

The performance audit released by the budget analyst indicates Muni could save more than $3 million every year:

  • By reducing the standby pay drivers receive when they're on call.

  • By reducing unscheduled overtime, Muni accounts for nearly half of all overtime in city government.

  • By paying just one full-time union rep instead of six.

Muni's executive director wants the public to understand the labor contract does not allow that flexibility.

"I think it's being lost that a great deal of the work rules and procedures that govern overtime issues, attendance issues are governed by or negotiated in memorandum with the unions," Muni Executive Director Nathaniel Ford said.

But Supervisor David Campos who called for the audit believes it highlights something else.

"With respect to overtime at Muni, that one of the big problems is that there hasn't been the kind of oversight that is needed, not just from management, but also from the board of directors," he said.

In fact, the audit is critical of the MTA board, saying it should strengthen the oversight process. Its seven members are appointed by the mayor and now some supervisors believe a more independent board is needed.

"We know the current mayoral appointees are acting as a rubber stamp on decisions by the management of MTA that has not been effective," San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu said.

The chair of the MTA board calls that insulting.

"Independence is in truly in the eye of the beholder. If I do what you want me to do, I'm independent. If I do what Mr. Ford wants me to do, I'm a puppet," MAT board chairman Tom Nolan said.

There was a voter-approved measure to reform Muni in 1999 and again in 2007, yet the agency is still struggling. The mayor says this audit is helpful.

"It just reinforces that TWU union needs to be part of the solution. The labor needs to step up to the plate," San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said.

But it was clear at a recent rally that drivers are resisting.

"Operators have given and given and given and given, were can't give no more," Muni driver Barry Chamberlain said.

One supervisor is already collecting signatures to put drivers' pay before the voters in November. Now armed with this audit, other supervisors are considering other reforms. The scrutiny starts with a hearing tomorrow, the same day they take a closer look at whether to reject Muni's latest budget.


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