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Saturday, February 6, 2016

City will now begin to track subcontractors

By Adam Wisnieski

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Comptroller John Liu put out a rare joint press release on March 19 to announce landmark reforms for how the city tracks its subcontractors.

The new program will not only increase transparency for how billions in public money is spent, it will for the first time create a uniform system for the city to monitor payments to companies doing work for the city.

“This is a really big deal in a very boring wrapper,” said John Kaehny, co-chair of the New York City Transparency Working Group.

The story has flown nearly as far under the radar as the subcontractors who have managed to avoid public scrutiny until now. 

The city has not had a uniform way of tracking how much prime vendors pay subcontractors and how that money is used. 

In fact, according to the city comptroller’s office, there has been very little oversight of subcontractors because every city agency has its own method for keeping tabs.

Many of the records of payments — sometimes in the millions of dollars — are handwritten and sent through the mail. 

The wonkiness of reforms to the city’s subcontracting requirements may explain the lack of traction in the news media, but why wasn’t the program — which makes New York City the first city in the nation to make subcontracting data available to the public — even announced at a press conference?

Perhaps it was because the new initiative was born out of the CityTime scandal, one of the biggest frauds in the city’s history and a major blemish on Mr. Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor.

 Because of fraud, the project to modernize city’s payroll system ballooned from $73 million to $700 million. Science Applications International Corporation, the main contractor on the job, ended up having to pay back $500 million. 

While SAIC was the prime vendor for the job, about two-thirds of the total work was conducted — and some of the fraud allegedly perpetrated — by subcontractor TechnoDyne. 

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