A coalition of labor unions and more than two dozen advocacy organizations on Wednesday urged Gov. Kathy Hochul to fully restore oversight powers of the state comptroller's office, a lack of which have been blamed for massive pay-to-play scandals in state government.
At issue is the full restoration of the oversight, which was removed a decade ago, for the state comptroller's office to review contracts at the state's public college systems and the Office of General Services.
The change was followed by a massive bid-rigging scandal linked to the Buffalo Billion economic development project in 2016, leading to the arrests and convictions of prominent upstate developers and a former close aide to then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
A memorandum of understanding has, in theory, restored that power. But lawmakers and good-government organizations have argued a statutory measure is needed to codify the agreement.
"Though the MOU was a step forward, these powers need to be enacted in statute, particularly since the memorandum can be revoked with ten days notice," the groups, led by Reinvent Albany, wrote in a memorandum of support. "This bill restores most of the powers that existed prior to 2011."
The measure restoring the oversight in law was approved earlier this year.
"Comptroller oversight is crucial for ensuring the integrity of state contracts," the groups wrote. "The Comptroller’s office reports that it reviewed $235 billion in state contracts in 2020, and identified multiple cases where oversight saved the state millions. Allowing large contracts to go unchecked risks the abuse of billions of taxpayer dollars."