When several of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's associates were arrested and ultimately convicted of corruption, good-government groups were quick to point out that changes Cuomo made to the way certain state contracts were audited may have enabled the scandal.
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Those arrested, including the governor's former top aide Joe Percoco, were convicted of bribery and bid-rigging related to certain state contracts. The state comptroller once had what was known as pre-audit authority for those contracts, but Cuomo and the state legislature took that power away in 2011 to speed up economic development projects.
Under a deal announced late Friday between Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Cuomo, that pre-audit authority has now been restored.
"You never solve corruption; you just have to keep working toward reducing the risk of corruption. And this clearly reduces the risk of corruption," said John Kaehny, the executive director of Reinvent Albany. "It's a common sense measure, and putting independent eyes on state contracts is always a good thing to do."
Back in April, Cuomo's budget director, Robert Mujica, said that pre-audit authority had already been restored, but it turns out that statement was false.
Five months later, Cuomo and DiNapoli strike a deal they say will re-establish the layer of oversight that had been lost.
"It's a clear step forward, increases public accountability, reduces the risk of corruption," Kaehny said. "We are really glad to see Gov. Cuomo and Comptroller DiNapoli working together to make this deal."
While good-government groups maintain this is a very good first step, they believe the best way prevent corruption through state contracts is to codify this handshake agreement between the governor and the comptroller with legislation. So far, the legislature has shown very little appetite to do that.