Thursday, December 30, 2010

Senator Addabbo: Statement, Timeline on CityTime Scandal

Held City Council Hearing Back in 2008; Warnings Were There Years Earlier
NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Queens) released the following statement in reaction to the erupting scandal involving New York City’s use of CityTime, the automated payroll system used since 1998 for the city’s employees. The Senator, who questioned the system as a City Councilman back in 2005 and held public hearings on it in 2008, also provided a timeline of events:
"Back in 2008 when I was still serving on the New York City Council as Chair of the Civil Service and Labor Committee, I had a public hearing at which other elected officials, labor leaders and city workers grilled Office of Payroll Administration (OPA) officials about the CityTime program’s cost, duration and efficiency. The CityTime system was then 10 years old, and OPA thought it would save the city $60 million a year by this new method of tracking city workers’ time and attendance using a new payroll system that was supposed to move city employees from paper to computer timesheets by 2004 for a $63 million cost,” Addabbo stated.
Addabbo went on to explain that as costs rose, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Management and Budget wanted a review and ordered agency heads to monitor CityTime closely, because it was running over budget, though no one then alleged any fraud. In April 2008, CityTime was shown to be a $410 million project, which the Daily News investigated, raising questions in a series of newspaper articles. The mayor called the system “far more complex” an operation than was anticipated. In May 2008, Addabbo held a committee hearing responding to municipal unions’ complaints that it wasn’t worth the cost and their questioning how lead contractors SAIC and Spherion were hired. At the same time, the Department of Investigations (DOI) was sent a detailed complaint. That December, newspaper reports focused on bloated payments to CityTime consultants, and Councilwoman Letitia James (WFP-Brooklyn) co-chaired with Addabbo another public hearing.
The mayor finally admitted CityTime was “a disaster” in March 2010. Six months later, NYC Comptroller John Liu’s scathing audit of CityTime found seven years’ worth of reports from CityTime’s quality assurance contractor were missing, from January 2001 to May 2008. The project was running amok, so Bloomberg assigned Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith to give it “high-level attention”. DOI began its secret criminal probe after another CityTime consultant told the agency about billing irregularities. The probe discovered shady shell companies and foreign bank accounts. The secretary for Local 375, a union for architects and engineers who objected to CityTime in 2005, said the city had failed to keep tabs on its expensive consultants, calling the electronic system “an incredible waste of taxpayers’ money” and calling for a review of that contract and every other contract out there.
“Here we are at year-end 2010, with Bloomberg saying multi-millions ‘slipped through the cracks’, Daily News investigative reporter Juan Gonzalez saying CityTime is ‘still eating up city money’, and the warning signs were there for years. Only now have arrests finally been made after the scandal broke and revealed the names of the corrupt consultants who masterminded an $80 million scam through phony billing and kickbacks,” Addabbo continued. The director of the city agency with oversight of the project was suspended without pay and DOI has seized bank accounts and $850,000 in cash from safe-deposit boxes.
“In 2008, while facing a looming city budget deficit of $4 billion, I wondered if we were at a point after a decade of using CityTime, whether we were throwing good money at a bad program. Because of the inflated cost and undetermined duration, I called for at minimum, a halt on payments and work under the contract,” said Addabbo. The then City Council Member believed that there was enough evidence, inefficiency and questionable facts to justify further investigation, and while being investigated, to have a moratorium. Now, the State Senator asks, “I wonder what we could have done with the millions of dollars wasted if the Mayor’s Administration had only realized it back in 2005 when we first raised the issue about CityTime, and possibly could have prevented hurting employees, making education cuts and closing firehouses.”