Review Contains Superficial Analysis of Ethics, Conflicts of Interest Issues
Cites Draft 2020-2024 Capital Plan Which Public Has Not Seen
The AlixPartners “Financial Review” released today contains 158 pages of findings and recommendations. Reinvent Albany is still reviewing the report, but notes the following preliminary observations:
The review correctly notes the difficulty in tracking capital plan progress as plans go through multiple amendments. However, it fails to provide a clear transparency remedy such as improved disclosure of capital plan information on the dashboard, or better open data.
Ethics/Conflicts of Interest
The review suggests that the MTA needs to leverage existing public data on “dual employment” (outside jobs of staff) for better ethics enforcement. In our Open MTA report, we call for the disclosure of the MTA’s list of “prohibited sources” – those who do business with the MTA – so that MTA employees clearly know where they should not accept gifts, attend sponsored events, or improperly seek employment. Reinvent Albany FOILed the MTA for such a list in 2018, but was told that the MTA did not have a list of prohibited sources. The MTA should create and publicly release a list of those who do business with the MTA.
1. The review cites the Draft 2020-2024 Capital Plan as being overly optimistic with $11B in commitments the first year. While AlixPartners has seen the draft capital plan, the public has not, despite the Board’s legal obligation to approve the plan by October 1, 2019.
2. The review notes that the MTA makes commitments of $5 to 7 billion a year for all capital plans. This does consider actual expenditures on capital plans, which run only $5 to 6 billion a year (see chart below)
Ethics/Conflicts of Interest
1. Fails to recommend clear prohibitions on outside income. Given the recent high-profile case of Former Chairman/CEO Joe Lhota resigning from his position due to “incompatible” outside income, this is a missed opportunity (though the review does note improvements should be made to the Vendor code of ethics). Reinvent Albany’s Open MTA report contains a number of recommendations for revising the MTA Codes of Ethics, such as banning outside income for leadership and high-level staff.
2. Fails to examine the issue of the “revolving door” – MTA employees seeking jobs with those who do business with the MTA.
3. Suggests that centralization of ethics compliance under a Chief Compliance Officer will improve enforcement, but fails to note there is an existing Chief Compliance Officer.
4. Fails to create an independent ethics enforcement mechanism.
1. When will the MTA release the 20-year needs assessment and Draft Capital Plan? The public deserves to see these documents ASAP. If publicly-funded consultants can see them, the public should have the same access.
2. How will the reorganization plan affect the ability of the MTA to deliver on its capital plans? The chaos of staff changes and reorganization will have an impact on project delivery that is not discussed, though the operating deficit is cited as a factor in project delivery.