In the cover letter of the audit addressed to the residents of the Big Apple, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander disclosed that the city authorities allowed Executive Medical Services, a contractor awarded a contract early in the pandemic, to set its own staffing levels that led to exorbitant costs and low efficiency. His analysis of invoices revealed that only one vaccination was administered for every two billed hours.
"Emergency contracting allows the City to stand up vital services in times of crisis, but demands heightened vigilance to safeguard the fiscal interests of the City. Our audit reveals significant weaknesses in the control mechanisms that impact past, present, and potentially future emergencies. By addressing these challenges head-on, agencies can better spend New York City’s taxpayer dollars wisely and efficiently, even in crises," Lander said.
The audit detailed that DOHMH agreed to pay the contractor up to $500,000 to create long-term and temporary sites for COVID-19 testing or vaccination. Out of 302 sites, 267 were temporary. However, the project that got "stretched" through the end of 2022 and had six contract amendments, eventually took $390 million from the pockets of NYC taxpayers.
"Auditors also found ballooning costs, including payments of up to $14,050 for each vaccination administered and payments of up to $2,040 for each test carried out. Costs ranged significantly across different sites. The lowest payment per vaccine administered was $70, and the lowest payment per test carried out was $128," the news outlet Conservative Playbook wrote.
The city budget watchdog was able to prove that the service provider indeed set up testing and vaccination sites in communities heavily impacted by COVID-19. Also, invoices were usually supported by documentation, however, Lander found a concerning irregularity that the department did not adequately control or monitor staffing levels. Under the contract, the medical services team would be paid $150 per hour for all sites, plus $100 per test administered and $25 per vaccine administered, but they lacked standards for whether sites were appropriately staffed based on demand, auditors said.
The media portal further reported that auditors were able to look through a sample of 49 invoices and documentation for the invoices and found that a single test was administered per 1.6 staff hours and that one vaccination was administered every two staff hours.
Meanwhile, daily reports were supposed to be signed by an Executive Medical Services worker and a DOH employee. However, a quarter of the reports were not signed by the latter, according to the inspection. They failed in proving that the health authorities were not double-checking if operations are carried out properly before even paying the contractor. Worse, the department did not complete a vendor performance evaluation of the contract within the timeframe required by the city's Procurement Policy Board.
Lander, being the "City that Never Sleeps'" chief watchdog, is always awake as his position requires him to scrutinize every contract the city signs with outside vendors. His job is to be the "arch nemesis" of the administration or the whistleblower that ends evil ways. Whatever he finds can gain significant traction in the press and therefore make the comptroller an institutional foil to City Hall, which could be used as a springboard for any political ambition.
Lander and New York City Mayor Eric Adams had a few feuds back in the day. People won't be surprised to see them head to head in the next mayoral bid.
In 2018, Lander slammed Adams' move to funnel $1 million in participatory budgeting money to Jesse Hamilton, a close ally to the mayor who was running against a Brooklyn progressive. A year later, they found themselves on opposite sides of a heated neighborhood spat over a popular Brooklyn brunch spot. The restaurant was run by close friends of Adams and catered to a largely black clientele.
Then, a shift happened. After winning the comptroller's race in 2021, Lander and Adams appeared to start off amicably, announcing a joint task force before taking office focused on improved payments to nonprofits. However, it did not take long for them to start not getting along.
Shortly after that, Lander criticized Adams' visit to the southern border to see El Paso’s response to the influx of migrants last year. The comptroller said it only reinforced a "harmful narrative that new immigrants themselves are a problem." In early June, Lander questioned the mayor's delayed response to a plume of Canadian forest fire smoke that briefly shrouded the city in a post-apocalyptic haze. He also traveled to Rikers Island and called for a change in authority at the local jail complex, where three inmates died so far this year. Of course, the mayor vehemently opposed this. (Related: There are now more illegal immigrants than homeless people housed in New York City's shelters.)
"Those actions appeared to send the mayor over the edge, cementing Lander as his chief irritant," Politico reported.
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