New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

$20 Billion in City Government Spending Could Be Found Easily Online Under New Legislation Proposed by Council Member Ben Kallos  


New York, NY – New York City’s spends $20 billion on contracts for City goods and services. However, most of the details regarding the solicitation, awarding, and spending are hidden behind a set of Byzantine systems that frustrate transparency and impede competition in public procurement. New legislation introduced by Council Member and Chair of the Contracts Committee, Ben Kallos, will adopt open contracting standards by creating one searchable database where anyone can find all the aggregated data around procurement. This bill would further promote transparency, streamline the procurement process, and increase competitiveness in public procurement. 
“Taxpayers have a right to know how every penny is spent, from pencils to school buses, and this legislation will make it easier to see where and how the city is spending their hard earned money,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee on Contracts.

Currently, if New Yorkers want information regarding a procurement solicitation, contract award, or spending they must navigate a series of systems. For example, if they wanted information concerning a solicitation, they would have to subscribe to the City Record – or search online thanks to a law authored by Council member Kallos – or search through the PASSPort system. If they wanted information on who received the award, they could check the Open Data Portal or check Comptroller’s Checkbook website, or go to the offices of the Mayor’s Office of Contracts (MOCS) and inspect a contract via one of their public portals (subject to availability due to COVID-19).
These systems create an environment where only “those in the know” have access to City contracts and feed corruption. This became apparent during the “City Time Scandal,” where three former city contractors were convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison following most elaborate and massive schemes to defraud the city. The project to computerize the city payroll — initially pitched as a money-saver — ran years behind schedule and hundreds of millions of dollars over its original $63 million budget. This and other scandals involving City contracts could have been avoided if there was more transparency.
The lack of transparency also continues to stifle competition for City contracts, especially among many of the city’s Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBE), who are often left out of the process for no other reason than they were not aware of the opportunities. The City has enacted programs to create more opportunities for MWBEs and this bill would complement the City’s efforts by making all of the information easily accessible in one place.
Int. 2401 of 2021 brings New York City to the forefront of open contracting. Governments around the world spend $13 trillion a year on contracts for public services, goods, and public works, but key information is missing in over 97% of this spending, this is also the case here in New York City. Opaque contracts that miss information shut out businesses, journalists, and residents from analyzing and interrogating the data. Now more than ever, taxpayers should know their money is being well spent.
This bill requires the establishment and maintenance of a searchable public online database to contain information from all stages of the contracting process for every mayoral agency procurement that exceeds the small purchase limits. The information published on the public online database would be free and reusable to the public. The bill would go into effect 120 days after enactment. 


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