Stringer: City is Chronically Late in Issuing Contracts, Putting Human Services in Jeopardy
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Tuesday released a new report finding “pervasive” delays in the city’s contract system, particularly when it comes to human services.
The consequence, Stringer said, is that services for the homeless and other vulnerable New Yorkers are put in jeopardy.
“Thousands of nonprofits – many serving the most vulnerable New Yorkers – go unpaid for months, forced to deliver services without a registered contract. This is unacceptable,” Stringer told WCBS 880. “The very organizations that the most vulnerable New Yorkers depend on are being forced to take out huge loans, skip payroll, delaying repairs, just to deal with the shortfall in cash.”
Stringer’s report said 90.8 percent of human services contracts were submitted late for registration in Fiscal Year 2017 – half of them by six months or more. The report also said contract types across the board had extensive delays – with 81 percent of new and renewal contracts across all city agencies coming in late in FY 2017.
The report focused on Type 70 contracts, which support human services programs for seniors, children, the homeless, and other vulnerable populations. Stringer’s office found that some agencies – including the Human Resources Administration and the Department of Homeless Services – submitted all of their contracts late in 2017.
Vendors can only be paid once a contract is registered. They will be paid retroactively if a contract is late, but until the contract is submitted, the vendors are forced either to wait to begin work – which can stall projects and hike costs – or start work without the contract and take major risks, Stringer’s office said.
The stakes are particularly high for human services contractors, which execute such functions as delivering meals for seniors and providing shelter for homeless families, Stringer’s office said. The services are critical, and the contractors are often cash-strapped nonprofits with limited budgets, Stringer’s office said.
Stringer called for a series of reforms, including a contract tracking system.
“We need more transparency. We need to assign each city agency a role in contract oversight. We have to create a public tracking system to allow vendors to monitor the progress of their contracts,” he said. “It’s amazing that by the time it gets to my office, it could have been delayed for years.”
Stringer said if UPS can track packages, there is no reason that the city cannot track human services contracts.
“This is bureaucracy at its worst, and we have to smash the bureaucracy,” Stringer said, “and we’re never going to reduce homelessness if we cannot have a Department of Homeless Service agency that registers contracts on time and on budget.”
Speaking to WCBS 880 Producer Neil A. Carousso, Stringer added that his office has been in communication with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office for “many years” about the late contract issue. When asked if de Blasio has an action plan in place, Stringer said, “Well, we’ll find out now.”