The US Transportation Security Agency (TSA) has failed to manage its airport screening equipment maintenance programme, a new report by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General has revealed.
About 450 airports across the country have installed the TSA equipments that are used for detecting explosives, guns and other weapons and prevent such dangerous items from being carried on aircraft.
However, the audit found that TSA has not shared with airports the necessary policies and procedures for proper maintenance of the machines, which inspect around 1.8 million passengers and 1.2 million bags every day.
Currently, the TSA holds four maintenance contracts including both preventive and corrective maintenance worth $1.2bn. It claims to have spent an estimated $251m on maintaining its equipments.
The report said: "Without diligent oversight, including implementing adequate policies and procedures and ensuring it has complete, accurate and timely maintenance data for thousands of screening equipment units, TSA risks shortening equipment life and incurring costs to replace equipment."
"More importantly, our prior work on airport passenger and baggage screening demonstrated that these other measures may be less effective at detecting dangerous items.
"Consequently, the safety of airline passengers and aircraft could be jeopardised."
The report also found that TSA used self reported data from maintenance contractors and did not validate it to confirm that the standards of maintenance had been met.
The department has directed TSA to enhance its programme oversight and to develop policies and procedures to ensure that its equipments receive the required maintenance.
Auditors have also asked the agency to develop a way of verifying that maintenance contractors had actually carried out the work.
Penalties for non-compliance in case a contractor had failed to adhere to the contractual requirements were also recommended.