Five watchdog groups wrote to the State Legislature earlier this week asking that they ensure that the final budget makes changes requested by the State Comptroller regarding oversight of state contracts and competitive bidding.
The groups were particularly concerned that the Governor’s executive budget proposed to rollback recently reinstated oversight of SUNY and CUNY contracts. In 2019, the State Comptroller and the Governor entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that brought back OSC’s ability to pre-audit contracts for SUNY and CUNY. Watchdog groups supported this MOU as a means to reduce corruption risk in the wake of the $1 billion bid-rigging scandal involving upstate development projects. The groups asked the Legislature to ensure the Comptroller’s SUNY and CUNY contract oversight authority is retained, if not expanded.
The full letter is here and below, and includes a table summary of whether the Comptroller’s requests were addressed in the Assembly and Senate’s one-house budget proposals.
Senate Majority Leader Andrew Stewart-Cousins Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
Re: In the final state budget, please jointly make the changes requested by the Comptroller regarding procurement oversight and competitive bidding
Dear Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie,
Our groups write to ask you to make the changes requested by the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) regarding contract oversight, competitive bidding, procurement safeguards, and other issues in the final budget enacted for fiscal year 2022.
As watchdog organizations, we are particularly concerned about the Governor’s attempt via the executive budget to rollback recently reinstated oversight of SUNY and CUNY contracts. In 2019, the State Comptroller and the Governor entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that brought back OSC’s ability to review (pre-audit) contracts for SUNY and CUNY. Watchdog groups supported this MOU as a means to reduce corruption risk in the wake of the $1 billion bid-rigging scandal involving upstate development projects. The Legislature must make sure that this important oversight authority is retained, if not expanded.
Additionally, the safeguards in sections 112 and 163 of the State Finance Law which the executive budget proposes to eliminate for a number of programs were enacted by the Legislature to ensure that the State Comptroller can review contracts, and contracts are bid competitively. Together, these protections are a check on the Executive to make sure taxpayer dollars are used wisely, preventing the waste of public funds. As stated in the Comptroller’s memo, OSC review of contracts on average is reasonable and quick, at 6 days for “critical contracts” like the ones that the Governor is seeking an exemption for. It is far better for the state to wait 6 days than for public dollars to be wasted, which could result in fewer services being provided.
We recognize that the Assembly and Senate have addressed some of these items in your one house budget proposals; however, a number of the Comptroller’s concerns have not been addressed jointly by both houses. A summary of the Comptroller’s requests and action in your houses is below. We ask that you ensure final enacted budget removes or amends the following items of concern:
Thank you for your consideration of this matter. Should you have any questions, please contact Rachael Fauss, Senior Research Analyst, Reinvent Albany, email@example.com.
Laura Ladd Bierman
League of Women Voters of New York State
New York Public Interest Research Group
Cc. Senator Liz Krueger, Chair, Finance Committee
Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, Chair, Ways and Means Committee