Friend: Wasteful Practices Cost Taxpayers

Assemblyman Christopher Friend (R- Big Flats) is appalled by recent reports and articles that uncovered a costly, complex, and inefficient bureaucracy in charge of Albany’s $3 billion government operations budget. The state Office of General Services budget includes what the state spends on goods and services, as well as all real estate owned and leased by the state. The article reported on unused office space, inconsistent products and service pricing, and the tangled bureaucracy in charge of it all.

Audits conducted on the order of Governor Cuomo revealed nearly two million square feet of taxpayer-subsidized office space sitting unused, all while state agencies continue to sign approximately $30 million worth of new leases. The reports revealed all sorts of waste, including state agencies continuing to order new hard drive space despite the state’s 4,800 computer servers running at half-capacity, and 425 toll-free hotlines that have not been used in months.

“Government waste of this magnitude is unforgivable,” said Friend. “Something must be done to correct this inefficient and costly mess. The people of New York are dumping their hard- earned dollars into a system that has little respect for how their money is spent. At a time when families are struggling to make ends meet, when the state is struggling financially and throwing that burden onto taxpayers, the government must be more efficient.”

At the heart of all this is a system that permits this wide scale waste to occur. The Office of General Services (OGS) is tasked with running procurement, managing real estate, and delivering services to public agencies and non-profit entities in the state, but they are not doing this well. Despite employing 20 people whose job it is to handle New York’s office space and land, no real estate inventory exists showing how much the state owns or leases. OGS bills state agencies for management and design work at a rate two to three times that of the industry standard and then outsources the work to a private contractor for a lower price, pocketing the difference.

A total of 500 state employees are in charge of the bureaucratic chaos that locates and buys goods from vendors and state contractors. Nearly 2,000 vendors sell redundant products and services to the state for a wide assortment of prices. Recently, a New York Post article detailed how one agency paid nearly $9 for a box of pens while another got the same pens for $3.

“This rampant and unhealthy waste comes from a bloated government that obviously has become unmanageable,” said Friend. “To end this waste, we must find ways to streamline government and better track our resources. I encourage the executive branch to undertake an immediate external audit of OGS and all procurement contracts. We must create a full inventory of all real estate owned or leased by New York state. In the long term, we must make institute- fixed price standards for services purchased through outside contractors and reduce state office space to reflect staffing levels. New Yorkers deserve a leaner, more efficient government and we will not achieve this without eliminating systemic waste.”