In an effort to speed up the state’s response to the pandemic last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo suspended some of the normal checks and balances on his power, including some of the procurement oversight by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.
More than a year later, despite actions taken by the state legislature to curb the governor’s pandemic powers, Cuomo is still exercising broad unilateral decisions over the state. On April 6, an executive order – relying on the governor’s pre-pandemic powers – suspended the comptroller’s oversight powers for another month.
As early as last summer, DiNapooli called for a restoration of his power, noting that his office takes about a “week or less” to review a contract and authorizes spending within a day in the case of an emergency. A spokesperson for the comptroller’s office repeated that sentiment this week, saying, “This is what we’re set up to do.”
“It’s time to restore our oversight powers,” the spokesperson added.
The suspended powers include approval of contracts of $50,000 and a relaxed procurement process for public authorities and state agencies, according to a report on the governor’s executive actions.
Two weeks before the latest extension suspending the comptroller’s oversight powers, Senate Committee on Procurement and Contracts Chair Elijah Reichlin-Melnick told The Capitol Pressroom that DiNapoli’s office should have their normal authority restored. At the time, he said his office was looking at legislation that would counteract the governor’s action.
A spokesman for Reichlin-Melnick said Thursday that the senator is in “active discussions” with the comptroller’s office on the best way to restore their powers and is looking forward to advancing legislation on the topic “before the end of the legislative session” in June.