To the 2019 Charter Revision Commission:
Shortly you will decide on the focus areas of the Commission for the coming year, leading up to the 2019 election. We strongly urge you to make procurement reform a focus of the Commission and to revise the City Charter to create a standardized time frame for City agencies that review and approve contracts as well as a publicly-facing contract tracking system. This will help level the playing field for all vendors, improve transparency, and ensure that the organizations who contract with the City can perform work in a timely manner.
New York City’s procurement process is notoriously slow, bureaucratic, and opaque. Vendors often wait months, or in some cases more than a year, for the contracts they have been awarded to be registered. During this time they have little visibility into the status of their contract and no way of knowing which City agency is reviewing their contract and how long that review might take.
The City’s procurement problems have long been felt by vendors. But Comptroller Scott Stringer’s report, Running Late: An Analysis of NYC Agency Contracts, documented that in Fiscal Year 2017, 81% of all new and renewal contracts were sent to the Comptroller’s Office for registration after the contract start date had already passed, and 10% of these contracts were late by more than a year. For nonprofit human services organizations, delays in contract registration create administrative headaches but also have real financial costs; providers are not paid until the contract is registered so often have to take out lines of credit or delay payments to third parties while waiting for payment. Vendors across the City experience similar issues.
The slow pace of contracting creates financial hardships for vendors and deters nonprofits, small businesses, and minority- and women-owned firms from competing to do business with the City. The status quo is unacceptable and new solutions are needed to ensure the City’s procurement process not only delivers the best value to the City, but the fairest system for our vendors. C
That’s why we believe the Charter Revision Commission 2019 should ask voters to approve reforms to the City Charter that would institute a strict time frame for City agencies to complete their contract review work, and create a publicly-facing contract tracking system to monitor the progress of contracts through each stage of the review and registration process. These changes would introduce real accountability to the City’s oversight agencies.
We are confident that creating these reforms in the City Charter would improve our City and we hope that you will put this proposal to voters in November 2019.