November 24, 2011
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
DC 37 held a Congressional Briefing at its headquarters on November 22 with New York’s Congressional contingent to explore options for federal oversight of the billions in federal dollars the city receives for different services because the city seems to be undermining the city’s civil workforce by awarding work to private contractors whose work and ethical record have been less than stellar.
Comptroller John Liu said the meeting’s tone was set by the continuing fallout from the City Time project that was budgeted for $63 million to modernize the city’s payroll administration, but eventually cost taxpayers $600 million because of fraud committed by the owners and management of the company responsible for completing the overhaul.
Henry Garrido, DC 37’s Associate Director, said “About 40 percent of the contractors aren’t based in New York.” He noted, for example, the compilation of the City’s health statistics are done in India and digitization of the City’s maps are done in Turkey.
More disturbing, Garrido noted, is that of the $900 million in federal Title 1 funds (targeted to students most at risk of failing in school) the City received this fiscal year, $585 million was distributed to the schools, but the remaining amount went to pay “400 computer consultants at DOE [Department of Education] earning close to $400,000.”
In another instance, Future Technology Associates won a contract to complete IT projects for an hourly rate of $110 to $140 an hour. But the workers tasked to do the work were based in India being paid only $11 an hour by the company.
To top it off, the outside companies aren’t paying their fair share of taxes. “Accenture has won about $1 billion worth of work in the City, but it pays less than five percent of its revenue on taxes because it’s headquartered abroad,” said Garrido.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler then asked DC 37, “What can we do in Congress to change outsourcing practices on the city level?” Before the union could answer, Nadler suggested that the City Council consider adding an additional provision to the Outsourcing Accountability Act (requires the City to conduct a cost benefit analysis for certain outsourcing contracts) that would allow a union or individual worker to sue the city when members lose their jobs to outsourcing as a means to enforce the legislation.
In response to Nadler, Garrido said that not all outsource contracts are covered by the new act. “A large number of the contracts the city uses are federal contracts vetted by the federal government.”
Nadler challenged Garrido that despite federal vetting of outsourcing contracts,“Shouldn’t the City Council also vet the contracts as well?”
Garrido responded that without Congressional intervention, “The City will continue to use private contractors.” Before he left the meeting, Nadler said that he will meet with the union to schedule a meeting with the City Council to discuss possible coordination of federal, state and city efforts to oversee spending of federal dollars at the city level.