Renewed Calls for System-Wide Changes as Bid-Rigging Accusations Loom

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Government reform groups in Albany want state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to take a more aggressive approach on reforming the state's contracting and procurement system; this, after nine people were arrested on charges of bid-rigging related to a lucrative economic development project.

"The stunning revelations of the U.S. Attorney's Office of bid-rigging should be a wake up call to the governor, the Legislature and voters that something rotten is happening with contracting in New York state," said Blair Horner, executive director of New York Public Interest Research Group.

Watchdog groups like NYPIRG put forward that the Legislature should now push for reforms to contracting and procurement to increase oversight and transparency, including the restoration of auditing powers for Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office on contracts worth more than $250,000.

"The Assembly and the Senate want this to be the governor's problem and now their problem, but this is the kind of head-in-the-sand, not-our-problem attitude that got us in trouble in the first place," said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany.

Legislators have been quietly discussing proposed changes to procurement oversight in the wake of the scandal, which has seen the arrests of former top Cuomo aide Joe Percoco and ex-SUNY Poly President Alain Kaloyeros. Cuomo, up until now, has indicated he is focusing on procurement only within the state university system, a vehicle for the economic development projects in question. 

"SUNY by itself doesn't solve the problem here and pointing your fingers here at SUNY is deliberately missing the point. We have a total system government-wide problem with fair, transparent bidding," said Kaehny.

Reform advocates also want elected officials to tackle campaign finance reform. Cuomo had raised thousands of dollars from the developers arrested in the case, but has now moved that money to a separate account. 

"If this shows nothing else it shows that he has been remiss at getting this one important reform that he has bobbled back and forth and never gets done," said Barbara Bartoletti, of the League of Women Voters.

Reformers want to see the release of a long-awaited internal review of economic development programs Cuomo first called for earlier this year after subpoenas in the case were submitted. The report is yet to be released.

The Cuomo administration indicated Thursday it would seek a broader examination of procurement policies in the wake of a string of scandals in Albany.

"There is no doubt that after these cases we need to examine procurement of all executive and legislative contracts, outside income loopholes -- which were laid bare in the Silver case -- and even family member income that was central to the Skelos case," said Cuomo spokesperson Richard Azzopardi.

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