Release: Audit Reveals Need for Further Improvement in DPW Billing and Customer Complaints Process Despite Recent Progress

Crest of the City of Baltimore

Bill Henry
Baltimore City
204 City Hall - Baltimore Maryland 21202
(410) 396-5410


Geoff Shannon, Public Relations Officer
(410) 387-5704


Baltimore, Md. – The Department of Public Works (DPW) has made significant improvement to its billing process but must fix remaining weaknesses in how it handles customer complaints, according to the findings of a 2022-2021 biennial audit report released by the Department of Audits (DOA). 

City Auditor Josh Pasch presented the DPW audit to the Board of Estimates at its June 5 meeting. DOA examined six areas of DPW’s water billing system: 

  • Setting up billing rates in DPW software system,
  • Customer account set up,
  • Meter reading,
  • Billing processes,
  • Customer complaints; and
  • Collections.  


In 2021 DPW implemented a new ticketing system for both Baltimore City and Baltimore County, the two largest customers of the regional water system. DOA’s review of this system found that from November 2021 to November 2022, DPW received 50,485 customer complaints and resolved 50,365 (99%) of the inquiries. Similarly, from December 2022 to December 2023 DPW received 46,124 customer complaints and resolved 46,123 (99%) of those inquiries.   

That progress was measured against two core findings from DOA’s analysis:  

  • DPW’s Customer Care Analysts (CAA) daily review of problem bill reports is not effective and does not consistently catch errors.  
  • The DPW Customer Support and Service Division (CSSD), which oversees the meter and billing systems for all City and County accounts, is not in full compliance with the customer complaints standard operating procedures.   

DOA noted that CAA’s lack of a secondary review led to errors and omissions in the billing process. Notably, the biennial audit found that CAA investigated an exception of a high read, but without a secondary review, DPW released an incorrect bill of $1 million.     

For the CSSD, DOA’s review found that of 46,124 complaints, DPW did not timely respond to 71 percent of complaints within five business days and 18 percent within 10 business days.  

A full breakdown of the findings can be found in the Comptroller’s Office DPW audit explainer

"While it's crucial that DPW is continuing to improve the water billing process, the audit also highlights the need for significant enhancements in our collections and customer communication," Comptroller Bill Henry said. "I am eager to see DPW take strong steps to improve its customer billing review and begin to restore the public's trust in our water system."

Next Steps  

DOA recommended that 1) the Director of DPW must update its procedures for its billing systems and that 2) they should require the CSSD Management to review periodic status reports of customer complaints to make sure CSSD personnel adheres to the process.  

DPW’s management has agreed to the report’s recommendations and will continue implementing improvements to Baltimore City’s billing system. 

The full DOA report, management response and a follow up report concerning findings from DPW's 2020-2019 biennial audit report are available on the Comptroller’s website.  



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