By LILLIAN ROBERTS
District Council 37, AFSCME, AFL-CIO
The mayor's contracted-out project to redesign the 911 emergency call system has set a new record for over-budget spending: a billion dollars and rising. I was saddened by the audit City Comptroller John Liu released May 30 - showing administration oversight so lax that one unqualified contractor was allowed to overbill the taxpayers by $163 million - because our members and the community pay for these repeated episodes of incompetence.
The 911 project is already seven years behind schedule, with only one of its major components up and running. Liu has urged the District Attorney to investigate possible fraud and called on the city to use his findings to determine how much money should be taken back.
For nine years as your Executive Director, I have been campaigning against the "shadow government" of contractors and consultants - often paid far more than our members for the same work and undermine the civil service merit hiring system, which has historically provided a bias-free path to stable, decently paying jobs for women and minorities.
Over the last five years, as the city's total contract spending has doubled to over $10 billion, our white papers project, spearheaded by Associate Director Henry Garrido, has revealed widespread contract abuse by the Bloomberg administration. We publicized the waste and fraud in hearings at the union last year, and in November we held a special briefing for our local members of Congress, focusing on how contracting out threatens jobs, the local economy and the proper use of federal funds.
Soon after the November briefing, the City Council overrode the mayor's veto and strengthened the local law regulating contracting. And now, 11 members of the U.S. Congress representing the New York City area have demanded a federal investigation of the waste, fraud and lack of oversight in the administration's use of federal money in contracting out.
Since the federal government gives New York City almost $7 billion a year, the Congress members wrote to the U.S. Comptroller General, calling for a government investigation of their "serious concerns regarding multiple abuses of federal funds" by the Bloomberg administration. They specifically cited "misuse of federal funds for privatized employees" as an obstacle to "hiring merit-based employees who are in most cases more qualified," as called for by federal funding guidelines.
HONOR ROLL: I want to thank the members of Congress who signed this very important letter - Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velazquez, Gregory Meeks, Edolphus Towns, Yvette Clarke, Joseph Crowley, Jose Serrano, Eliot Engel and Gary Ackerman - and especially Charles Rangel for his central organizing role and Carolyn Maloney for her outstanding contributions.
Our national union, the 1.6 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, worked closely with us here and has given us tremendous help in our battle to limit contracting out and protect our members' jobs.
This year more than ever your union needs you to vote for public officials who care about saving jobs and ending the corruption and waste of contracting out. The power is in our hands, if we vote. For help registering to vote or to join PEOPLE, our political action committee, or to participate in political action, just call 212-815-1550.