Watchdog Supports A7404 (Solages) to Shine a Light on Contracts Exempt from Comptroller Review

A7404 (Solages) / S6941 (Cooney)
Requires contracts exempted from
OSC oversight to be published

An act to amend the state finance law, in relation to requiring the public posting of certain contracts otherwise subject to prior approval of the comptroller.

Section 1 of this bill amends the State Finance Law by adding a new section 149 to define “emergency contracts” and “exempted contracts.” Emergency or exempted contracts include those otherwise subject to review by the State Comptroller under Section 112 of the State Finance Law, Section 2879-A of the Public Authorities Law, or any other provision of law, but suspended by either emergency order or law.

It also requires all emergency and exempted contracts to be published on the contracting entity’s website with:

  • the relevant emergency declaration or provision of law suspending or exempting prior Comptroller review;
  • a brief description of the contract, including the amount of the contract, the name of the vendor(s), the contract term, what is being provided by the contract, and, if the contract is an emergency contract, a statement explaining how the contract relates to the declared state disaster emergency; and
  • a statement explaining whether the contract was chosen on a competitive basis, and, if not, an explanation of why a competitive process was not undertaken. 

A provision states that this section cannot be suspended, modified, or altered by the Governor during a state disaster emergency pursuant to section twenty-nine-a of the executive law.

Section 2 states that the bill takes effect 30 days after becoming law. Any emergency or exempted contract still in effect at the time of this bill’s effective date is required to be published by the contracting entity.

Reinvent Albany strongly supports ensuring that the State Comptroller has full power to oversee state contracts. We, along with many other watchdog groups, have successfully fought to restore certain oversight powers to the Comptroller that have been taken away by law or proposed to be removed during the budget process.

Current law allows the Governor to exempt comptroller review through emergency orders, or the Governor and Legislature to pass budget legislation that exempts comptroller review for certain state spending.

This legislation would better let the public see how the state is spending taxpayer money by requiring state agencies to publish online all contracts that are exempt from the Comptroller’s oversight. Much of this exempt spending occurs during emergencies, when there is less accountability of governmental activities. Agencies would also have to publish information explaining why the contract is exempt and, for noncompetitive contracts, explain why competitive bidding was not used. This will provide greater transparency of state spending, allowing more public scrutiny and accountability.

We urge the Legislature to pass the bill.

Click here to view the memo as a PDF.