Most New Yorkers have very little knowledge of the duties of the Office of the State Comptroller that has been led by Thomas P. DiNapoli for the last 14 years.
Some may know (i.e., public employees) that DiNapoli is the manager of the New York State and Local Retirement System, and sole trustee of more than $210 billion in the State’s Common Retirement Fund.
Today more than one million public employees, retirees and beneficiaries depend on the comptroller to wisely invest pension assets in order “to provide the means to pay benefits to the system’s participants and to minimize employer contributions.”
But managing investments is not the comptroller’s only duty. Another very important responsibility is conducting audits of state agencies, public benefit corporations (i.e., Metropolitan Transportation Authority) and local governments.
From 2010 through 2017, DiNapoli’s Office of State and Local Government Accountability has performed over eleven hundred audits, has identified over $3 billion in savings, which includes millions of dollars in revenue enhancements, and fraudulent or abusive expenditures.
In recent months, Comptroller DiNapoli has released troubling audit reports focused on the financially ailing MTA which is controlled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
On July 23, 2019, for instance, the comptroller’s office revealed that a non-profit, Bowery Residents Committee, first contracted by the MTA in 2010 to provide homeless services at Penn Station, Grand Central State, and LIRR and Metro North train stations, has been shortchanging the MTA and homeless New Yorkers.
“The non-profit the MTA hired,” DiNapoli said, “has turned away homeless men and women seeking assistance. Some outreach workers spent more time in the office than reaching out, and filed inaccurate and unreliable outreach reports. The MTA is not getting what it paid for and riders and the homeless are suffering for it.”
And what did the MTA pay for the outreach program that hasn’t done much outreach? Plenty.
Between 2010 and 2017, the MTA paid out to BRC approximately $12.4 million. The “most current four-year contract, effective November 2017 through October 2021, cost the MTA, $2,118,871 for the first year, with increases for each of the remaining three years not to exceed 2 percent.”
What a rip-off.
One week later, July 29, DiNapoli released another audit exposing MTA projects plagued by cost overruns and delays.
The comptroller’s review of capital projects “found errors throughout the project pipeline that contributed to delays and higher costs.” Many of the problems that were identified “were tied to the MTA’s failure to follow its own procedures or properly oversee contractors.”
Of the six MTA construction projects analyzed, it was determined that they all “fell behind their original schedules, and four—with a total budget of $672.2 million as of May 30, 2018—were overbudget by a combined $43.2 million.”
These delays and overruns were due to pre-construction delays, design errors and omissions, contractor non-conformances, and insufficient contractor personnel on-site.
In one case, a design to accommodate disabled riders “omitted a necessary raising of a platform edge to accommodate passengers with wheelchairs.”
That screw-up, discovered during construction, cost farepayers an extra $617 thousand.
Then in August 2019, DiNapoli released an analysis of MTA data that determined “the overall number of repairs needed in New York City’s subway stations has increased, leaving fewer stations in good condition as the system has deteriorated faster than the pace of repairs….” About 11% of the most serious problems “went virtually unchanged from 2012 to 2017.”
The MTA’s reaction to the scathing audits: most of the problems occurred under old leadership.
But the old leader is the present leader, namely Governor Cuomo. He has been governor since January 1, 2011 and the collapse of our mass transportation system has occurred during his watch.
Fortunately, New Yorkers have a non-partisan fiscal watchdog exposing Cuomo’s mismanagement.
Comptroller DiNapoli — keep up the good work!