MARTA hires KPMG to review IT department operations

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Friday, April 19, 2013

MARTA has retained auditing firm KPMG LLP to conduct an internal investigation of possible misappropriation of assets in the operations headed by Ben Graham, the transit agency’s chief information officer.

KPMG is being retained by MARTA to conduct “forensic technology services” that likely include “the identification, collection, filtering, processing and/or hosting of electronically stored information,” according to an engagement letter from KPMG to Keith Parker, MARTA’s relatively new general manager.

The letter was obtained through an open records request. Parker signed the engagement letter on March 15.

MARTA spokesman Lyle Harris confirmed a review of the information technology department is under way, but could not comment until the work is completed in several weeks.

KPMG is the firm that conducted an in-depth audit of MARTA’s operations and made recommendations on how the agency could save annual operational expenses. When compared with other peer agencies, among the areas where MARTA had the highest unfavorable ratings were in its information technology functions.

As a result, KPMG recommended that MARTA consider outsourcing several of its operations, including IT.

But there may also have been misconduct and mismanagement in the IT functions.

Graham is not mentioned by name in the engagement letter between KPMG and Parker. But Graham has a history with the organization.

On Jan. 11, 2002, Graham was fired by MARTA as manager of networking engineering in the IT department because of a violation of work rules.

The explanation for his termination was that the “employee continued to do unauthorize (sic) procurements after numerous oral, written counselings.”

The termination record clearly stated that Graham should not be rehired by the department or by MARTA.

But according to a memo dated Aug. 26, 2006, Graham was offered “temporary contract employment” with MARTA as the assistant general manager of technology, strategic marketing and customer service delivery effective Sept. 11, 2006.

He was hired by Richard McCrillis, who was then serving as MARTA’s interim general manager and CEO. At no point in that memo was there any reference to his previous employment with the transit agency.

Then in a letter dated July 23, 2007, Graham was promoted to assistant general manager in the Department of Technology, while McCrillis was still in charge.

MARTA’s website currently lists Graham as assistant general manager of information technology.

The KPMG letter of engagement states that the fee for Phase 1 of the investigation shall not exceed $100,000, excluding out-of-pocket expenses. The firm also will advise MARTA when its fees and expenses total $70,000 so they can agree on how to proceed.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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