Public transportation

D.C.'s Cash-strapped Public Transit Agency Didn't Know It Had Hundreds of $400 Gold Pins Sitting in Storage

A recent Inspector General's report found the agency had serious problems tracking and managing its inventory.


Washington, D.C.'s largest public transportation agency has been sitting on a stash of gold and didn't even know it.

A recent report found that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA)—which is responsible for running bus and rail transit service in and around the nation's capital—was unaware that it had 204 14-karat gold pins (worth on average $426 per pin) in storage.

The revelations come as part of a critical report from WMATA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on the transit agency's storage practices, which found numerous problems with how the agency stored and accounted for its $144 million inventory of spare parts and equipment.

As other reporters have noted, the excess, unaccounted-for gold pins and sloppy storage practices are a bad look for a cash-strapped agency that is trying to save money through service cuts to some bus routes and fare hikes.

According to the OIG report, WMATA purchased 900 gold pins, for a total cost of $143,000, in 2013 as part of its Length of Service Recognition Program. The pins would be rewarded to employees to denote their years of service to WMATA.

During the course of the OIG investigation, the pins were discovered in WMATA's main storeroom. The current official in charge of the service recognition program was unaware that the pins had been purchased, or that WMATA still had $87,000 worth of the pins in its possession. The actual distribution of the pins was also untraceable according to the OIG report.

Inspectors had two of the pins appraised, and determined that they were both made of 14-karat gold, and were worth $400 to $750 apiece.

The pins have since been moved to WMATA's Human Recourses department, which runs the agency's service recognition program. It's unclear from the OIG report if the 204 pins were all from that 2013 order, and, if so, if the remaining 696 pins were distributed to employees or remain in storage.

WMATA did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

In addition to the pin problems, the OIG report also found that WMATA's supply chain inventory responsibilities were fragmented across a number of different divisions and that the agency "could not accurately account for its total supply chain inventory or determine its value or location."

The OIG found that WMATA had spent $800,000 in rent since 2012 on a remote storage facility, but didn't have any staff assigned to control or distribute the items stored there. Inspectors who visited the facility found equipment left outside, or stored in unopened boxes marked 2008.

Since 2018, WMATA has, according to the OIG report, been trying to improve its inventory practices with its Supply Chaim Management Transformation Program. That initiative aims to centralize supply chain organization and hand over inventory management to WMATA vendors.

The OIG praised the initiative. It also issued five recommendations for further improvement, including using barcodes to track inventory and ensure all storerooms have video surveillance.

The report is another black eye for an agency that has suffered severe ridership declines and recently had a board member resign amidst corruption allegations.

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  1. Well, there goes someone’s secret pension – – – – – –

    1. The inspector general foiled my plan to start working for WMATA and then pull those out of storage and into my car.

  2. In past years, individual schools in the DC school district were chronically starved for supplies while tons of supplies sat untouched in warehouses.

  3. Actual gold for a 35-year pin? There has to be plenty of people to blame for this one.


    1. This is just a minor problem with a backwater local government. The federal government is certainly more competent…

      1. Yes, feds can waste MUCH bigger budgets

  5. And this is just a little of what the IG found. They also found that metro facilities are constantly disgusting because a contractor being paid to clean those facilities just doesn’t bother. Metro has promised to fire the contractor and start doing the cleaning in-house. I’d like to say this will make things worse, but how is it possible to do a housekeeping job worse than just not doing it? Will employees assigned to housekeeping start adding their own feces and used needles to the parking garage stair wells? I’m sure the next IG report will be just as informative as this one.

    1. Will employees assigned to housekeeping start adding their own feces and used needles to the parking garage stair wells?

      My prediction: Yes, they will.

      Although it occurs to me that you might have erred by assuming they aren’t already.

      1. And like the safety inspectors that forged reports, they can’t be fired because they were never trained to not do that.

  6. The current official in charge of the service recognition program was unaware that the pins had been purchased, or that WMATA still had $87,000 worth of the pins in its possession.

    Hope he then gave himself a pin.

    1. Sounds like a Soviet joke.

  7. Reading the article, I was thinking that these “gold pins” were some kind of fasteners. Why would they be gold? I figured perhaps they needed to meet some specific requirements for conductivity and ductility. But no, they are decorative pins to be awarded to people to wear on their clothing. Oh well.

  8. Gee, I know I put them down somewhere around here!

  9. It might be the worst run mass transit in the nation.

    1. It sure sounds like the worst run employee recognition program in the nation…

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