NYC's Computer-System Cash-Dump Disaster

New York City threw away a mountain of cash over a new computer system. Now, finally, someone is going to pay.

In fairness, the current comptroller, John Liu, has aggressively raised questions about CityTime. He was the one who persuaded Mayor Bloomberg to stop the open-ended payments to SAIC, and forced them to agree to a real deadline.

That decision magically accelerated the pace of the project. By last September, just 73,000 employees were on the system. By December, the number had shot up to 100,000 employees, proving that there's nothing like a little work incentive to get things done.

But Liu's success only makes one wonder why questions weren't raised much sooner by his predecessor, William Thompson.

Records indicate that along with the mayor's office, the comptroller's office approved all of the contract increases, but didn't audit CityTime until this year. That audit found, among other things, that the project was plagued by "poor management decisions." It was so bad, in fact, that there was no way to figure out just how many dollars were wasted, the audit said.

Forster, the Local 375 official, tells the Voice that his people approached Thompson's office in 2007 to request an inquiry on CityTime, but were politely rebuffed.

"It just seemed like they had too much on their plate at the time to take on something so massive," Forster says. "And then there was the election and that was sort of it."

Moreover, an SAIC competitor told the New York Post that he had been raising red flags for years, saying he spoke to both Comptroller Thompson's office and the mayor's office about his concerns.

Comptroller spokeswoman Sharon Lee said she couldn't comment on the Thompson era.

And what does the scandal say about the Department of Investigation?

DOI commissioner Rose Gill Hearn has been aggressive in pursuing CityTime this past year. According to the federal indictment, the investigation began in June 2010, when a former consultant told DOI he was being paid by a company that hadn't been approved to work on the project. The federal case appears to rely heavily on the DOI investigation.

But you have to wonder what, if anything, was done before then. It's hard to believe that not one person approached DOI between 1998 and 2010 to complain about the internal workings of the project.

In fact, in 2007, the Voice has learned, DOI did investigate CityTime, including interviewing several CityTime consultants and a few payroll affairs people.

In addition, the probe examined a Department of Defense Inspector General investigation into a number of former SAIC employees who had formally complained that after they blew the whistle on improper billing practices, SAIC retaliated against them by firing them, records show.

What DOI did with the information that was gathered remains unclear.

DOI spokeswoman Diane Struzzi declined to comment on any specifics because of the current, ongoing investigation into CityTime. "There have been a series of allegations going back several years—some have borne fruit and some have not," she said. "There is not a single complaint that came into this department that laid out the kickbacks, the money laundering, or the shell companies. DOI uncovered those crimes."

And, of course, there's the January 2009 anonymous Internet posting, which should have piqued someone's curiosity. It wasn't all that hard to stumble across it.

And then there's the City Council—the supposed check on the mayor's spending habits. While some Council members—like Letitia James and Joseph Addabbo—have sought answers, where was the council in the years when the project grew out of control? Isn't the council supposed to approve big contract increases?

While the council voted to approve the initial contract, James says that it did not get a chance to approve or disapprove the subsequent and sharp cost increases. In essence, she claims, the Bloomberg administration was able to do an end run around on the council's oversight role. Can it really be true that the council had no idea what was happening in the project?

Jamie McShane, a spokesman for Council Speaker Christine Quinn, did not respond to Voice questions.

In many respects, the local media was also behind the curve. Part of the reason was that the Bloomberg administration kept the true cost of the project under wraps. As a result, there was confusion in the press about just what the project cost. A New York Times article in January 2007, for example, set the project cost at $180 million, when, by then, the true expense was already much higher.

It wasn't until Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez began in late 2009 what would become a series of probing columns that the story began to emerge from the shadows.

Of course, CityTime isn't the first high-tech city project to go horribly awry—just the most expensive and allegedly the most corrupt.

City Comptroller Liu said in May that there were a series of high-tech city projects with cost overruns, missed deadlines, and incomplete or ineffective systems. A city personnel tracking system, for example, mushroomed from $66 million to $155 million.

Just last week, Liu said that a project to create two new 911 emergency systems for the police and fire departments had swelled from $380 million in 2005 to $666 million with no major alterations of the project plans. The project is one year overdue, and has been troubled by poor management and oversight by the contractor, his office said.

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25 comments
NowThenZen
NowThenZen

ty for this Article, Mr. Rayman. A very similar monstor project happened in Los Angeles (LAUSD payroll system) but that project only cost 300 Million, not almost a Billion.

Joey
Joey

Actually as is being reported there is scant evidence that a slowdown occured. It seems more like a Republican trying to scape goat the union to take the heat off of the mayor and the administrations obvious failure

Daily
Daily

All reporters are experts in system development, and new technologies? Did anybody try to compare the project this size in a private sector? Did anybody try to estimate; even at this cost, how long will it take for the system to pay back for itself in money saved? Did anybody ask why we need the system and why are the unions are so against it? The only objections came from a union of engineers and architects? Not the police or fireman, or even sanitation (the hard working people). Why don’t we ask MR. Gonzales why he was so interested in this project, as opposed to other issues, like union ordered slow-downs that put “tax payers” in grave danger? Is this political witch hunt? Who do unions support for the next mayor? Not any body aligned with the current mayor!

ASE
ASE

This is the cancer that has been eating away at America for years and why most city are in a financial mess. This is just pure robbery of taxpayers money from the top down. These aren't regular Joe Smoe businessmen. Do A check of their political contributions and see where it leads. These contracts are all political paybacks for contributions and support. Why were they only charged with embezzling 80 million? What about the rest of the money and interest. These guys will probably plead this out, get probation and repay a pittance of the money they got and move on to the political hookup to scam NYC or some other city again.What eats me up is that middle class New Yorkers blaming the unions for the city woes when clearly the city's money is being given away to all these politically connected cronies aka consultants that gets the salaries of 40-50 people. Gov Patterson was crucified as corrupt for getting free tickets to a freaking game but someone who works directly under the Mayors nose in involved in scamming 3/4 billion from the city and the mayor bears no responsibility?

Nunya
Nunya

the same sort of thing happened with the WTC Captive Insurance Fund. over 400 Million gone from the fund, 3 people were paid to the tune of about 45 thousand bucks, but when facing a Congressional board of inquiry, nobody knows what happened to the money. more Bloomberg cronism at work.

bvrhntr69
bvrhntr69

Kudos, these guys get rich and end up living in a "country club" prison at the taxpayers expense! Make them spend a real long time in a "real" prison just like everyone else and it will stop!

Miracle638
Miracle638

Mike Bloomberg is the new Boss Tweed in NYC. We elected a billionaire because we thought he was a good manager and above corruption. Oops! WRONG on both counts!

ibivi
ibivi

The same thing happened in my city. Millions went to a computer company way over what had been budgeted. Hearing conducted over how it happened. Various city officials were disgraced. The ultimate issue is that public money is not properly protected. Rather ironic given that city budgets are shrinking but somehow these frauds keep happening despite oversight mechanisms.

unsean
unsean

There's enough blame to go around, though the bulk of culpability belongs to the private sector; and yet everyone will probably talk about shrinking government, and its inefficiencies.

I get it, though look what happens when you leave the private sector to its own devices. You get fraud and other criminal offenses.

My cure for this is to stop pussy-footing around with these white-collar felons. Get rid of disparites between white collar and blue collar crimes.

This way, if you're at the helm of an Enron or some other private sector company and you engage in massive fraud, you should get life imprisonment ( in a 'regular' prison, not one of these 'country clubs' you hear so much about).

Suzannah Troy
Suzannah Troy

CityTime Mike Bloomberg's Crime and it started with Rudy. 80 mill is chump change when you look at the big picture. Read on....

Suzannah Troy
Suzannah Troy

The author is very vague which is not a good sign but I believe he is referring to this CNN iReport which is still up. http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DO... CityTime is Mike Bloomberg's crime. I listen the reasons on my blog. I give you links to articles including The Washington Post that tells you about the SAIC providing their services like SAIC did and does for NYC gov with CityTime and the FBI had to scrap it because it was a failed system. Rudy brought in CityTime and SAIC. Rudy's deputy mayor Peter Power is the lobbyist pimp that tried to push through the SAIC MTA deal so do the math on why Mike is pushing SAIC on NYC gov and will be putting CityTime over the billion dollar mark....why or why? Read the Vanity Fair article on SAIC and them think about it.

Suzannah Troy
Suzannah Troy

The author is very vague which is not a good sign but I believe he is referring to this CNN iReport which is still up. http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DO... CityTime is Mike Bloomberg's crime. I listen the reasons on my blog. I give you links to articles including The Washington Post that tells you about the SAIC providing their services like SAIC did and does for NYC gov with CityTime and the FBI had to scrap it because it was a failed system. Rudy brought in CityTime and SAIC. Rudy's deputy mayor Peter Power is the lobbyist pimp that tried to push through the SAIC MTA deal so do the math on why Mike is pushing SAIC on NYC gov and will be putting CityTime over the billion dollar mark....why or why? Read the Vanity Fair article on SAIC and them think about it.

Guest
Guest

CityTime is full of nepotism. When you consider that Joel Bondy, Mark Mazer and others within SAIC and/or CityTime are either related to another employee at SAIC/CityTime,or previously worked within ACS, I wonder if perhaps ACS should be investigated, or at least their environment where this mindset seems to be from.

Cassidy
Cassidy

I worked in the purchasing department of a CUNY college for almost eight years. I was just the lowest on the totem pole and even I routinely spent tens of thousands of dollars a week -- while the college was alleging short finances, professors were being paid for trips here and there (oh yeah right those ubiquitous academic conferences all the time). Many strange things going on during that time. Contractors would bid late and we'd back-date because the dude was a friend of higher-ups. Et cetera. Fact of the matter is, everyone cheats, sooner or later. I was paid but worked only twenty minutes a day oftentimes, and just as often not at all. I would literally disappear for hours, sleeping in an unused, out-of-the-way classroom! I surfed the internet, chased girls, etc. But if it's any consolation, I was never given a raise in all of eight years. But that's fairly normal, all of it. My boss seemed to be involved in some hanky-panky of his own, too. We even had a stereotypical big-butt-big-breasted mamicita working despite speaking no English and not even knowing how to use a computer! The whole place was a trip. Everything was weird. So, in conclusion, everything is f-ed up and frankly, you take your chances as you may. This is the real world. At 39-going-on-88, I'm practically the diametrical opposite of what I used to be at 21 -- both for better and worse! Anyway, this kind of thing happens up and down and all around. It is what it is. Good that folks are busted, and big shots this time, too, but the money's gone, man. Hey, look, I'm even posting this from my new gig! It's crazy. But what am I to do? Can't get a legit job, a real career doing something meaningful. So I do b.s. work for a b.s. company in a b.s. field. Thank God I'm not paying taxes! Been homeless once in NYC but I'm too old for that crap now. Eight hundred bucks a week for forty-five-hour weeks with no benefits and no breaks can be tough on most anyone, especially in one of the most expensive cities in the world -- and believe me I ain't living it up, either, unless you consider a decent apartment in this day and age to be luxury! But why am I telling you all this -- especially since I'd already said "in conclusion" many, many sentences ago above? 'Cause the truth is, most of us would try to get money anyway we know how. Some folks are just plain greedy, while others like me feel like we have to be greedy. It's like a college slut who's gonna give it up anyway, so why not for you?? Somebody's gonna put it in her, you might as well too....

NotAWhistleBlower
NotAWhistleBlower

I am a legitimate software consultant. I do my best to stay away from big NYC projects - far too political, all about greed and fleecing the City. The Voice should ask for more info about similar projects. You'd have no shortage of really big, fraudulent projects. The system and those who work it are far worse than parasites. The Investigative area should be substantially increased in size, with bounties given for fraud uncovered, stopped, and successfully prosecuted.

Rachelhamilton
Rachelhamilton

Nyc Cash Dump

Arizona is no match for Nyc.

Identity Theft is another word for 'take the GED before you hurt someone'.

Some would cheat on the test.

Nyc has aplacement exam that is revamped every year. But ofcourse someone has toask what if the rate of Dropping-out exceeds the rate of getting to the 'placement exam'?

In that case, you'd have the age old question of what is Life and Death? What is Identity if not to get stolen and partied on? What is the point of Laws if not to get broken? Why say 'No To Drugs' when you have never tooken drugs before?

This takes up time and money.

Jibe913
Jibe913

Sadly, even as the real crooks are being brought before the public, city workers are still be demonized and City Hall is still claiming there is no money, pension costs are killing us, average NYers have to sacrifice, yada yada yada. NYC pension funds are SOLVENT but not for long if our great manager, the mayor, continues his business as usual.

Miracle638
Miracle638

Wasn't the reason the people elected Bloomberg that he was a rich buisnessman, able to "manage" the city AND above coruption?

ChiCom Justice
ChiCom Justice

bypass prison and execute them straighup like the ChiCom do, everyone else will really take notice...

Jdubois
Jdubois

And in the meantime, honest, hardworking drones are going to lose their jobs over this. No one in the comptroller's office, DOI, or City Hall has taken that into consideration. It's always the innocent who suffer (including taxpayers)

Alessandra
Alessandra

Well, all of this pales compared to the $8 trillion the Wall Street banks plundered from the Fed, according the Fed Audit Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders forced through Congress. We have been robbed blind again and again by the people in power, these plutocrats, who know no bounds and just demand more and more. Instead, unions and the poor are demonized and middle and working-class people suffer. No one wants another Tunisia to occur over here, but if the thieves just keep looting and laughing as they sail off on their yachts....

 
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