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Stringer 2013 - Streamline Procurement Process and Root Out Troubled Contracts

Stringer 2013 - Streamline Procurement Process and Root Out Troubled Contracts

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Published by Scott Stringer
Scott M. Stringer today released a new blueprint for streamlining the city’s $10 billion contract and procurement system, as part of his new series on Re-Imagining the Office of New York City Comptroller.
Scott M. Stringer today released a new blueprint for streamlining the city’s $10 billion contract and procurement system, as part of his new series on Re-Imagining the Office of New York City Comptroller.

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Published by: Scott Stringer on Aug 28, 2013
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RE-IMAGINING THE OFFICE OF NEW YORK CITY COMPTROLLER
CONTRACTS AND PROCUREMENT: STREAMLINING NYC’S $10 BILLION
PROCUREMENT MACHINE + ROOTING OUT TROUBLED CONTRACTS
Under the Charter, the Comptroller must ensure that appropriate checks and balances are inplace to prevent abuses in City contracting. As Comptroller, Scott will ensure that contractsdeliver value for our taxpayers, provide the services our citizens depend on, and offer fairopportunities for all who wish to compete for our business.Contracting affects nearly every area of public policy. New York City uses outside vendors toprovide a vast array of the goods and services it delivers to New Yorkers. Virtually all publicworks construction is performed by vendors, as is most architectural and engineering design
and oversight work for construction projects. Nonprofit organizations deliver most of the City’s
community-based health and human services programs under contracts with City agencies.Many services in City parks
from restaurants, to snack bars and some sports facilities
areoperated by outside companies, as are countless other services that use City streets andinfrastructure to serve their customers, from cable TV to private bus lines. Consultants providemost of the technology services upon which government depends, and of course, like any majorbusiness, the City buys all of the office supplies and products it needs to operate governmentagencies from outside suppliers.The contracting process touches the lives of every New Yorker, from investments in making ourpublic buildings models of environmental sustainability and to the kinds of shelter, food and
services we provide for our City’s most vulnerable residents, to the ways in which we make
basic information about o
ur government’s spending and services accessible to the public.
 All told, New York City procures over $10 billion
through nearly 50,000 new contracts
 every year. The Mayor and the agencies reporting to the Mayor have the primary responsibilityto select and approve the vendors who receive those funds and provide those services; and theCity Council has some ability through its budget and through the oversight process to influencethe procurement system as a whole.As Comptroller, Scott will ensure accountability, transparency and fiscal compliance. Through aprocess called
registration
, the Comptroller checks each contract to make sure the City hasenough money to pay its bills and that corruption has not tainted the award process or the
 
vendor. Reg
istration is an important tool, but it comes at the end of a long process, when it’s
often too late to make fundamental changes.That is why Scott will work with City agencies and the vendor community to correct flaws in thebidding process early on, and root out problematic contract terms before they become the nextCityTime. By participating in pre-bidding conferences and working collaboratively with City
agencies, he will ensure that the office ensures our City’s contracts meet the needs of New
Yorkers.Scott will also appoint knowledgeable experts to the Procurement Policy Board (PPB), to helpdevelop rules to make our contracting process more efficient, fair and transparent.As a member of the Franchise and Concession Review Committee (FCRC), on which Scott hasserved for nearly 8 years, Scott will bring the same commitment to transparent governance tothat often-opaque body. While on the FCRC, Scott has a track record of championing theinterests of park users and others who depend on these important awards and will build upon
that record as Comptroller. He will also vigilantly pursue the Comptroller’s labor law
enforcement duties, to hold vendors accountable for paying their workers all required wagesand benefits.Just as Scott fought to expand the use of emerging and Minority and Women-Owned Business
Enterprise (MWBE) asset managers in our pension fund, so will he use the Comptroller’s power
over procurement to ensure that City agencies are living up to the promise of our MWBEcontracting program to ensure greater competition for City contracts and a level playing fieldfor all businesses.Last but not least, Scott will ensure that City contracts and contracting data are made broadlyavailable to the public, with easily understandable reporting tools that make the informationaccessible.
WHY CONTRACTS AND PROCUREMENT ARE IMPORTANT FOR NYC RESIDENTSContract Registration
City agencies must submit all new contracts, as well as all renewals and changes to contracts, tothe Comptroller for
registration before vendors can be paid. The Comptroller’s Office of 
Contract Administration performs this function. The Comptroller first verifies that there ismoney in the City budget to pay for the contract; then the contract is reviewed to ensure thatneither the contract award process, nor the vendor itself, has been tainted by corruption. TheComptroller has 30 calendar days to complete this review and either register, reject or object toregistration.If the Comptroller believes that there are indications of corruption and rejects a contract forregistration, the City Charter still allows the Mayor, if he or she disagrees, to require the
 
Comptroller to register the contract anyway. If the Mayor disagrees with the Comptroller’s
complaint of corruption, the Comptroller has to quickly register the contract within 10 days. Inthose instances when a Mayor and a Comptroller have disagreed about contract registration,
the courts have been clear that the Mayor’s “override” power must prevail, even where
theComptroller believes that there is evidence of fraud. The Comptroller provides an importantindependent voice for improving contracts and the delivery of City services but faces limits of power with the registration function.As Comptroller, Scott will use the registration power strategically and will collaborate with theCity administration not only to find the flaws, but also to find solutions that protect theinterests of all New Yorkers. Registration gives the Comptroller critical leverage, bu
t it’s equally
important to bring a creative, collaborative approach to the table, not just a hammer.As Comptroller, when Scott finds serious problems with a contract at the time of registration,he will, when necessary, urge the Mayor to stop the contract. He will also seek to negotiatechanges, such as shortening the length of the contract and conducting a new competition, orchanging the terms of the contract to lower its costs. And if the problem is with a particularvendor, Scott will insist that City agencies (including the Department of Investigation, if appropriate) impose tight conditions to ensure that the vendor fully complies with the contractand applicable laws.But it is not enough simply to seek improvements on a contract-by-contract basis during theregistration process. As Comptroller, Scott will evaluate the contracts that come throughregistration on a more systemic basis, identifying substantive errors that often lead to contractsrunning off the rails with cost overruns, and working to reform the process so that such errorscan be prevented before they result in wasted dollars, unfair competitions or shoddy work.
 
While Scott will work with City agencies and City vendors to make the procurement process asefficient as possible, the reality is that billion dollar projects
—whether to safeguard the City’s
water system or build new schools in communities throughout the five boroughs
are not thesorts of decisions that can (or should) be rushed. As Comptroller, Scott will make sure that hisvoice is heard, not only at the end of those long and convoluted procurements, but up frontwhen the action begins and key decisions are made.Specifically, he will become involved early in the contracting process by strategically identifyingcontracts with high impact, participating in pre-bid conferences and working collaborativelywith City agencies to develop solutions for better efficiency and performance.Scott will take advantage of newly available information about contracting plans to influencethe process. Because of technological advances and contracting reforms sponsored by theMayor, the two most recent City Comptrollers and the City Council, agencies now post a huge
amount of information about their contracting plans on the City’s we
bsite. Agencies post listsof planned contracts
 –
for construction projects, concession awards, all types of professional

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