CityTime is Giving City Hall a Bad Time

By Gabe Pressman
|  Tuesday, Jun 21, 2011  |  Updated 5:29 PM EDT
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CityTime is Giving City Hall a Bad Time

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Daily News reporter Juan Gonzalez deserves credit for pursuing the CityTime scandal. It’s the worst one in the Bloomberg administration’s history.

The irony is that, if the charges are proved, City Hall’s desire to prevent wrongdoing, to make the processes of government open and honest, has backfired. The mayor is discovering that, when hundreds of  millions of dollars are involved, some people can’t be trusted.

He has long prided himself on being a careful, efficient administrator.  If these charges are proved true, it will show he is just as capable of being deceived as the next guy.

But the most grievous sin is that a whistle-blower was ignored when he suggested there was something wrong years ago.  Way back in 2003, the overseer of the CityTime project, Richard Valcich, warned of over-billing and other questionable activities by Science Applications International Corp., the company that designed CityTime.

Ironies abound here. The City Time project was supposed to save money for the taxpayers. But Valcich found that Science Applications International Corp. repeatedly delayed the project -- to get paid more. Also, he charged in an epic letter, that company didn’t follow  basic industry standards and that it re-wrote contracts on its own.  

Susan Lerner of Common Cause told me that “clearly this administration has relied too much on consultants.  It seems to have a great faith in individuals rather than having a well thought out system that has objective criteria for judging the competence of overseers.

 “There’s been a growing tendency to privatize jobs that used to be done by city workers. I’d rather see competent city workers doing the jobs than squandering $60 million on hot shots. It may not be sexy to give a job to a city worker but it seems to me that relying on personal relationships to monitor a project can easily backfire.”

Ms. Lerner is right. There is a tendency to throw lots of money at vital City Hall projects and ignore some of the fundamental realities of dealing with human beings. Corruption is a hazard in every city administration. And avoiding it may be more difficult in an age when the use of consultants is increasing.

The latest indictment in the CityTime scandal should prompt prosecutors and city officials to take a long, hard look at the way we run our city government -- and put in place safeguards against sweetheart deals with favorite outside consultants. The best antidote for consultant corruption may be found within the regular city work force.
 

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