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Joint Inspector General report highlights decades of financial waste in Baltimore City & County's shared water system

Posted at 11:09 AM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-21 17:12:46-05

BALTIMORE — Baltimore City and County leaders held a news conference Monday morning sharing the findings of a joint Inspector Generals report that highlighted decades of deficiencies in a water system shared by both jurisdictions.

The report found that out of 400,000 water meters in the city and county, more than 20,000 have faulty equipment.

As result, many meters came back with a reading of zero which in turn inaccurately charges customers only the minimum water rate.

Right now there are approximately 8,600 complaints in the county that have been sitting unaddressed for over a year, according to the report, some even as long as three years.

One example of wasteful spending came in 2018, when the county contracted consulting firm Baker Tilly at a price tag of $420,000 to analyze the practices of the joint water system.

Upon completing a 75 page report and forwarding it to the city, the county nor Baker Tilly ever got a response.

Since 2011, more than $133.5 million has been spent on similar contracts.

Another major lapse came to light when it was discovered that the Ritz-Carlton at the Inner Harbor had not been billed for water since 2007.

RELATED: Ritz Carlton in Baltimore owes approximately $2.3 million in water bills

That alone cost the city $2.3 million in lost revenue.

Acting DPW Director Matthew Garbark said Monday that case still hasn't been settled.

Another hurdle came when the water system became one of many victims that was crippled for months by a cyber attack on city computers.

SEE ALSO: Baltimore City, County residents' water bill will be higher than normal following shutdown caused by ransomware attack

Then of course the COVID-19 pandemic had all but halted billing for the majority of 2020.

That led to a scramble to get all the meter readings finished, which ended in another contract being handed out and more than five-dozen city layoffs.

READ MORE: 63 city workers to be laid off once contractor takes over water billing, meter reading

Just this past month county residents began receiving bills again that were significantly higher than normal due to the backlog.

New City Mayor Brandon Scott and County Executive Johnny Olszewski on Monday pledged to build off the reports findings to repair the water issues that for years have plagued city and county residents.

Watch the entire news conference below.