Office For People With Disabilities' Contracts Need Better Oversight
The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) awarded contracts for more than $17 million between 2006 and 2009 without written justification, according to an audit issued by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
"Disabled New Yorkers depend on OPWDD for housing and other essential services," DiNapoli said. "They can't afford to lose out on services and taxpayers can't afford to lose tax dollars. OPWDD has to do a better job of protecting the hundreds of millions it spends in tax dollars."
DiNapoli's auditors examined a sample of 22 contracts valued at $17.2 million and found no evidence that regional operating units had properly justified their contract requests. In addition, OPWDD had not performed the periodic reviews of service contracts required by state directives.
OPWDD provides residential and family support services to more than 125,000 people across the state. The agency's regional Developmental Disabilities Services Offices (DDSOs) rely on contractors to provide certain services, including research and analysis, data processing, computer programming, and transportation.
OPWDD awarded 1075 service contracts between 2006 and 2009. DiNapoli's auditors selected a sample of 22 contracts from the 709 contracts valued at over $50,000 during the audit period, and found that OPWDD made no attempt to compare the cost and effectiveness of contracted workers with in-house staff. The agency also neglected to review contracts after they were awarded, though it did send annual reports listing new and existing contracts to the State Division of Budget (DOB).
DiNapoli's auditors noted that a 10 percent reduction in OPWDD's service contracts budget would have yielded more than $5 million in savings. DiNapoli recommended that agency managers should require staff to submit written justifications for contracts. Managers should also reassess services contracts on a regular basis in order to identify ways to suspend, eliminate or reduce their usage.
OPWDD officials agreed with DiNapoli's audit and agreed to take corrective action. Officials stressed that some contracts were health and safety-related, and should not be cut. OPWDD officials also claimed that the State's hiring freeze led to a greater reliance on contractors.