Corruption and waste.
Two words that have become synonymous with New York state government, most recently due to last year’s bid-rigging and bribery scandals involving SUNY Polytechnic and projects associated with the Buffalo Billion economic development initiative.
For New York taxpayers, this malfeasance is expensive, wasteful and harmful to business.
When government contracts are handed out to those with the best political connections or those who donate the most money to political campaigns, legitimate businesses are victimized, promised jobs and economic development don’t materialize, and New Yorkers don’t get the best value for what they pay for these contracts.
When public authorities are allowed to ignore reporting requirements designed to hold them accountable for their activities and for the debt they put onto taxpayers, the citizens don’t know whether these authorities are acting properly to improve the economy.
Well, in a unusual burst of good news for New York taxpayers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken steps to address both of those issues — one, by finally agreeing to restore state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s authority to review certain public contracts, and two, by signing legislation to hold public authorities more accountable for filing timely reports on their activities.
It was Cuomo who, back in 2011, stripped the comptroller of much of his auditing powers for the bidding processes for the state university system and the Office of General Services.
That lack of oversight helped open the door for last year’s corruption scandals. In March, the governor pledged to restore the authority, but hadn’t fulfilled that promise — until last week, when an agreement was finally announced to give DiNapoli’s office the authority to review state university contracts over $250,000 and OGS contracts larger than $85,000, among other terms.
The other good news for taxpayers is that Cuomo has signed bill A220/S1872, which will give the state Authorities Budget Office the power to suspend local authority board members and chief executive officers of authorities that are at least three years delinquent in filing their annual reports and audits.
Many of these authorities either significantly delay filing their annual reports or don’t bother filing them at all, thanks to the fact that there have been few to no consequences for not filing.
A report issued in 2018 found that 129 local authorities failed to file reports on time, including several locally.
Neither of these actions by the governor will eliminate the potential for corruption and waste in the state.
But they are important steps forward in reducing the opportunities for it, and New Yorkers should welcome them.