In a letter to State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, watchdog groups Reinvent Albany, Citizens Union, Common Cause/NY, the League of Women Voters of New York State, and New York Public Interest Research Group, asked for the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) to publish a list of executive orders and laws exempting state spending from Comptroller pre-audit review and approval. Watchdog groups believe this pre-audit authority is among New York State’s most powerful tools for fighting corruption.
The letter also highlights a transparency bill (A7404 (Solages) / S6941 (Cooney)) passed by both houses that complements the Comptroller’s online list by requiring state agencies to publish all contracts that are exempt from the Comptroller’s oversight on their websites.
The letter is here and below.
July 24, 2023
Tom P. DiNapoli
Comptroller, State of New York
Re: We request OSC publish, and update monthly, a list of executive orders and laws exempting state spending from Comptroller pre-audit review
Dear Comptroller DiNapoli,
We ask you to publish on your website a list of executive orders and laws currently in effect that exempt certain contracts and state spending from review by the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC).
To be truly useful to the public and public officials, we ask OSC to update this list monthly and include information on:
- the mechanism for suspending or removing oversight (executive order, budget appropriation, etc.);
- the specific law being exempted; and
- the duration of the exemption.
Our organizations advocated for years to restore the Office of the State Comptroller’s power to review state contracts before they are signed, and we championed legislation signed by the Governor in December 2022 and the restoration of OSC review over specific appropriations in the state budget. Despite these improvements, the Governor retains broad authority to issue executive orders suspending OSC oversight. Additionally, the Governor and Legislature approve individual state budget appropriations that exempt certain state spending from review.
Multiple executive orders may be in effect at any given time and may be extended and/or amended, making it difficult for the public to track which exemptions are still in place. The Governor’s Office provides the text of all executive orders on its website, but it is laborious to determine whether orders have been extended, are in effect now, or when they expire. The June 28, 2023 edition of the New York State Register shows some of the information the executive branch currently provides, and reveals it is common for orders to be extended, but is also difficult to review. (See below our signatures for an excerpt from the State Register.)
We appreciate your support for legislation related to this, passed this session by the Senate and Assembly. This transparency bill (A7404 (Solages) / S6941 (Cooney)) requires state agencies to publish all contracts that are exempt from the Comptroller’s oversight online. Much of this exempt spending occurs during emergencies, when government spending and procurement is based in a crisis atmosphere with little oversight or review. The bill also requires agencies to explain why a contract is exempt and, for noncompetitive contracts, explain why competitive bidding was not used.
We believe this bill will be vastly more effective if the Comptroller’s Office publishes a list of current executive orders and laws that suspend your pre-audit review. This will allow local governments, legislators, journalists, watchdog groups and the general public to better understand what pre-audit and competitive procurement exemptions agencies should be reporting.
Should you wish to discuss this request and ways to implement it, we would welcome the opportunity to have a meeting with your staff.
Laura Ladd Bierman
League of Women Voters of NYS
New York Public Interest Research Group
Excerpt from the June 28, 2023 edition of the New York State Register (p. 6)