Recipe for Trouble

City schools' new food plan fails to deliver

The problems with the food contracts naturally raise the question of oversight. Most city agencies have to run their contracts through Comptroller Bill Thompson's office, per the city charter. But the city schools department, although under mayoral control, is a creation of state law and therefore exempt from the charter. So the schools department makes its own purchasing rules. Its contract with Accenture, for example, has not even been registered with the comptroller. A comptroller's audit of the 2003 Snapple deal with the schools found the bidding process was "fundamentally flawed," and Thompson is pressing for the state legislature to impose more oversight of school department contracts. Klein's office—which dubbed the Snapple audit "biased"—declines to comment on the legislative proposal.

While the delivery situation has stabilized, even the firms brought in to help have been fined for failures. Despite that, school officials say the new system allowed them to stop renting a warehouse and go directly to manufacturers to get bulk discounts. "In the long term," insists Berkowitz, "this is going to be very successful for us."

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