New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is in putting-out-fires mode, after a number of scandals have hit in recent weeks. There’s his former top adviser, Joseph Percoco, who’s been indicted in a fraud case surrounding the building of a new power plant. And a state inspector general report recently found that nonprofits affiliated with the City University of New York misappropriated state procurement funds. The latter scandal forced the resignation of the CUNY president, who was accused by the IG of presiding over a culture “ripe for abuse.”
So it’s no surprise Gov. Cuomo is locking down on procurement corruption, and at first blush, the manner in which he’s doing so isn’t unusual. Cuomo has called for a state chief procurement officer, to help quash any wrongdoing and ensure that policies are properly implemented. Fairly standard “state procurement reform” step 1: Create a strong central office.
But what’s interesting is Cuomo’s statement on the creation of the chief procurement officer position:
That person will be charged with reviewing all state contracts, with an eye towards eliminating any wrongdoing, conflicts of interest or collusion. And just so there is no confusion, I do mean all contracts. Any contract or agreement that entails the disbursement of state funds will be subject to review. The Chief Procurement officer will have authority to review any disbursement from the State Division of the Budget. This will include all contracts, grants, executive or legislative disbursements. Any question of collusion, political benefit or personal connections will be thoroughly examined. The Chief Procurement Officer will have investigative and prosecutorial experience, and will be authorized to refer problematic issues directly to law enforcement for further action.
Generally speaking, the announcement of a centralized procurement official does not also proclaim that position to be one where prosecuting is an integral part of the job position. It’s understandable why Cuomo is emphasizing rooting out corruption, but one hopes that a proper understanding of procurement processes and value still wins out over how many investigations a candidate has conducted.