12/3/2019Florida: Government Audit Documents Toll Road Nightmare
Botched toll road system upgrade in Florida costs motorists hundreds of millions according to a state inspector general report.
Motorists in Florida had hundreds of millions of dollars directed into the pockets of private tolling companies. A report released last month by the state Department of Transportation's inspector general documented the disastrous rollout of a $358,412,593 "upgrade" to the system that processes SunPass toll transponder transactions.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) had hired Conduent to create a brand new "Go-Live" centralized customer service system (CCSS) that would handle transactions such as online payments. The system went live on June 2018 and proved to be an immediate failure.
"A total of 571 SunPass customers experienced duplicate charges, resulting in 1260 refunds to customer accounts resulting from customers repeatedly pressing 'enter' to process payments, and because a required feature to prevent this within the CCSS system was not functioning at Go-Live," the inspector general explained. "Untimely customer billings resulted in account overdrafts. A total of 2,247 SunPass customers experienced overdrafts to their banking account, resulting in $189,885 in refunds being made to customers."
Conduent vastly underestimated demand and the bandwidth required for the transfer of 8.5 million toll accounts from the previous backoffice system to the new one. Even declaring a six-day "maintenance" period with limited functionality did not help. Instead, a massive backlog of transactions built up that took down the mobile app, the automated telephone payment system and the website.
For the toll road customers who set up an automated draw on their bank account to ensure their SunPass account would never run dry, about one out of four experienced being double-charged as Go-Live launched, according to the inspector general's sampling of 5754 transactions that day.
"As of July 31, 2019, approximately $184 million in tolls were owed by SunPass and Toll-By-Plate customers for transactions during the period June 11, 2018, when the new back office system went live, through May 31, 2019, when normal business rules for toll escalation were reestablished," the report found. "The uncollected revenue is partially attributable to Conduent being unable to properly reconcile, post, and mail correct invoices to SunPass customers after Go-Live."
As a result of the fiasco, FDOT fined Conduent $10 million and decided not to renew the contract after it expires in 2022.
A copy of the report is available in a 4mb PDF file at the source link below.