November 8, 2011
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
On Monday, October 31, Deputy Mayor for Operations, Cas Holloway, told the City Council Committees on Contracts and Technology that the city is prepared to make changes to Information Technology (IT) project management so as to avoid future mishaps, especially as investigations into the CityTime contract to automate agencies’ timekeeping system continue.
But then Henry Garrido, Associate Director for DC 37, soon learned that the city was about to award up to $290 million worth of “no-bid IT contracts” to multiple private sector companies. A public hearing was held on Thursday, November 3, at the City Planning Commission where DC 37’s Local 2627 members voiced their concerns that the city is unnecessarily overspending taxpayers’ money to pay outside consultants rather than pay the trained DC 37 staff to complete IT projects.
The Office of Management and Budget has directed all city agencies to make cuts of 2 and 6 percent to their 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 budgets, respectively, because it has cited reduced state and federal aid. Garrido questioned why then is the city pursuing outsourcing contracts worth millions of dollars when it is calling for two consecutive years of budget cuts.
“We already have trained and qualified in-house staff to do the necessary IT work. But the city instead wants to pay outside consultants hourly rates between $170 and $470 per hour without conducting a cost-benefit analysis. Our members can do the work for less than a third.”
Garrido expressed concern that the contracts don’t attach quality or time targets to the scope of work. The proposed contract with Accenture (one of the vendors to be selected), for example, is worth $30 million “to provide citywide systems integration services for technology projects.” Without a breakdown of completed work over a period of time, the city risks spending the entire sum of allocated money for the project, or worse, paying additional money for cost overruns because the project hasn’t been completed.
At last week’s City Council meeting, before the new round of contracts were announced, the Deputy Mayor, Holloway, recommended modular contracting, “which aims to ensure that the contract provides a deliverable at the end of each phase,” as one way to change the city’s IT project management.
Also troubling to Garrido is that the city is relying on the same contractors as it did in the last contract cycle back in 2009, instead of a competitive bidding process. “We are about to award Accenture millions of dollars….the very same company under fire for mismanaging the contract with NYCAPS [the automated personnel system].”
Nicholas Sbordone, Director of External Affairs for the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), the agency responsible for overseeing the city’s IT projects, said that the “values associated with each contract are an estimate of citywide use across all agencies….it does not mean the whole sums will be spent.”
Sbordone also noted that the city has been using the IT contracts, which are based on contracts the New York State Office of General Services developed, since 2004-2005 to achieve deep discounts. The contracts, however, are sun-setting at year’s end, and “we’re moving now to transfer them to the City to ensure those savings continue.”
Sbordone emphasized the contracts will not displace any Local 2627 members currently working on existing IT projects, but are slated “for new work that requires specialized expertise.”
But Garrido said that Local 2627 members already work in job titles as “Computer Specialist Software” and “Computer Specialist Operations” who are trained to provide the “specialized expertise.” In addition, the union teaches prep classes to ensure that members are ready to pass civil service examinations, enabling members to advance from provisional positions to permanent.
Garrido worries too that the contracts, which do not expire until June 2013, will undermine Local Law 35 of 1994, which requires agencies to “determine whether a proposed services contract would displace City employees and if so, to conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine if outsourcing makes the most sense to the City.”
In October, the City Council voted on and passed the Outsourcing Accountability Act, intended to amend Local Law 35 of 1994. According to the Council, the act “will apply to a broader universe of contracts…and require City agencies to explain in detail their non-displacement [of union members] determinations.”
But on Friday, November 4, Mayor Bloomberg vetoed the act, which the Council is expected to override.