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Shoddy system for awarding contracts

July 23, 2015
The Island Now

By: 

The Editorial Board

Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas recently released a report detailing deficiencies in the way the county awards contracts and offering a series of reforms.

The report, which is part of an ongoing review Singas began in April after then-state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was accused of illegally pressuring the awarding of a Nassau County contract to a company that employed his son, presents what Singas called “troubling problems” in the contracting process.

Among the deficiencies uncovered was the absence of vendors to disclose subsidiary companies, criminal convictions, political contributions or whether a vendor is barred from government contracts in other places.

According to Singas, her office’s review has already found an unspecified contractor with ties to organized crime, a contractor barred from doing government business in another jurisdiction and a convicted felon with a bankruptcy.

Singas also said the county has no “credible” way to verify information prospective vendors give and that the Commissioner for Investigations had proved ineffective.

In the report, Singas recommended enhancing vendor screening protocol to mirror that of New York City, which requires vendors disclose criminal convictions, tax warrants and if the vendor is barred from working in other jurisdictions.

She also recommended implementing a technological platform to track contracts and streamline the submission of financial disclosure, and called on the county Legislature to eliminate the position of Commissioner of Investigations, and replace it with an independent county inspector general. 

The position would be appointed by the county executive and confirmed by the Legislature with a supermajority vote.

We urge the county Legislature to act immediately to enact the reforms called for by Singas. 

How the county awards contracts not only affects the quality of the services provided by vendors and their cost to taxpayers. It also strikes at the heart of the public’s confidence in county government.

The giant holes in the county’s system raises troubling questions.

How has a county whose finances have required state supervision since 2000 — after receiving a state bailout to avoid bankruptcy — failed to review something as basic and important to the quality and cost of services as how it awards contacts.

Where have Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, the county Legislature and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos been during this time?

Why does it take the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office – responding to a federal investigation into political corruption – to uncover the gross deficiencies in how the county awards contracts?

It’s time the public received some answers. The reforms proposed by Singas offers a good start.