BALTIMORE — Baltimore's Inspector General on Wednesday released a report that found city agencies spent $108,045.80 on 204 unused telephone lines over a three-year period.
The report stems from a complaint against the Municipal Telephone Exchange (MTE), over irregular billing practices.
MTE says many of the phones in question were manually moved, re-arranged, or disconnected by employees at different agencies. Some at the police department were even found to still be packed away in boxes.
According to MTE, they need to be notified if and when a phone needs to be moved, disconnected, or reconnected. Only their technicians have the capability to handle such changes without service disruption. In a letter sent to the Inspector General, MTE says just because a phone is unplugged and not being used, doesn't mean it's out of service and won't be billed. MTE says it's the responsibility of the IT department at each respective agency to request that the phone be disconnected and charges discontinued.
The Inspector General says MTE temporarily suspended billing to all 203 phone lines to conduct an internal audit, but by March bills had resumed. As of April, city agencies were still charged $1,899.30 for 56 unused phones.
So far, the only refunds issued were to the Mayor’s Office in April after MTE determined they were incorrectly billed in March.
The Inspector General also discovered that some agencies who weren't even supposed to have the phones, compensated MTE with more than $600,00 for other agencies who did have phones.