Customer frustration, along with the risk of abuse and fraud, have been identified as significant deficiencies in the Owen Roberts International Airport parking management system, according to an internal audit report completed late last year.
The report was recently made public via a Cayman Compass open records request to the government, which FOI managers sought initially to delay and later released in a redacted form.
The October 2014 audit is not the first time such difficulties have been publicly flagged. The Compass reported problems with the parking system in July 2014 after some users complained the machines outside the airport terminal that collect cash from parking lot users had kept their change when they inserted larger bills.
Back in March 2006, the newspaper reported the then-newly installed parking system, known as the Automated Parking System, was “trying the patience” of airport users.
The government’s Internal Audit Unit review put it this way: “Frequent system breakdowns impact the customer experience negatively and may lead to loss of revenue. Manual intervention by [staff] also increases the risk of errors and irregularities in the revenue collection and reporting process.”
In addition, the Automated Parking System machines were originally supposed to accept payment via debit and credit cards, but auditors noted the module that allows such transactions to be processed “was no longer operational.”
“This, coupled with the fact that the machine often dispensed incorrect change, necessitated customers to have the exact amount of cash to settle their tickets. Such a deficiency resulted in limited payment options and a negative customer experience,” the audit review stated.
Internal auditors also uncovered other issues in their report that led them to question whether the parking system was “susceptible to the risk of fraud.”
“We were advised that there was no known report that could be generated from the Automated Parking System documenting all the tickets that had been issued for a specified period,” auditors noted. “This made verifying the completeness of parking revenue impossible during the audit.
“Inadequate controls over the completeness of the parking fees render the process highly susceptible to the risk of fraud and may also lead to misstatements in the [Cayman Islands Airports Authority’s] financial records.”
There were also difficulties noted with certain airports authority employees being able to override payment requirements at the exits to the airport’s short-term and long-term parking lots.
The parking system requires anyone using those lots to punch a button on the ticket dispenser at the entrance to the parking area to obtain a ticket. When they return to retrieve their vehicle, they must stop by the automated payment machines to insert cash and retrieve a stamped copy of the ticket. The passenger must then insert the stamped card into the machine at the parking lot exit to leave the airport property.
In instances where the exit machines cannot read the person’s ticket, or if the ticket is damaged or misplaced, airport employees are allowed to use a “swipe” card to override the parking system and let the driver pass through.
“There was no control in place to monitor against the abuse of this override,” auditors stated. “There was no evidence of records being kept that documented when a swiping override was carried out, and by whom.
“Inadequate monitoring over the use of employee swipe cards at the [parking lot] barriers renders the process susceptible to abuse. There is risk of financial loss which is compounded by the inadequate management of receipts and collections.”
The remainder of the section of the report that discusses employee controls over the parking area is redacted.
In responding to the audit unit’s report, Cayman Islands Airports Authority management did not dispute the findings with regard to the airport parking system. It did state that a “short-term” solution to the parking problems would be put in place last year and that an entirely new parking management system would be in place by early 2015.
Airport officials said Wednesday that the earlier timeline had been pushed back, but that a competitive bidding process for a new parking management system would be completed shortly. Once a new vendor is chosen, the installation process is expected to take about three months. Officials hoped the new system would be in place before the upcoming tourism high season in December 2015.