Ethics committee hears from TxDOT about billing issues

Leaders with the Texas Department of Transportation briefed lawmakers about the progress being made to fix billing problems with TxTag.

State Rep. Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park, requested the hearing before the investigating and ethics committee. Some customers were improperly billed. Earlier this week the state agency announced it would be giving back $1.7 million to those customers. The problem appeared to be bigger than the agency originally anticipated. So far around 31,000 accounts have received some type of credit.

In the fall Dale's office started to receive numerous calls from constituents about billing problems.

Over the summer the agency switched billing vendors and both TxDOT and Xerox point to faulty data from the previous provider. Xerox hired more customer service representatives and the wait time has since gone down to around 30 seconds.

"We have had cooperative meetings with TxDOT and Xerox," said Dale.

Some lawmakers questioned possible issues in managing contracts.

"Why the disconnect when we look at some large failings in managing contracts," questioned Rep. Joe Moody, D- El Paso.

"I'm not aware of any extremely large failings. I know we have some issues with Xerox," replied TxDOT Executive Director General Joe Weber.

Rich Baston with Xerox says the system the company inherited didn't aggregate accounts which created more of a wait time. He says the system is up and working.

"Right now just thank you for your patience and the system is perfect and there are no data issues," said Baston.

"All of our contracts we negotiate them and write them with an option of an out and we can break it for convenience or cause," said Weber. At this point Weber says terminating the contract with Xerox is not on the table.

"No not at this stage, again, I continue to go back and I think when we flipped the switch with Xerox we probably weren't ready," added Weber.

"They have been giving me weekly updates and there have been substantial improvements," said Dale.

In the coming months TxDOT anticipates more fines for Xerox which could be as much as $177,000. That's equal to what the company has been fined so far per terms in the contract.

The billing issues prompted Dale to file HB 3108 requiring TxDOT to send toll bills within 30 days. The legislation is in the process of being referred to a committee.