NYC comptroller to launch ‘real-time’ audit of city’s $432M migrants contract

City Comptroller Brad Lander said on Monday he may revoke the Adams administration’s authority to quickly enter into emergency contracts to house and care for migrants.

Lander told a morning press conference his office will conduct a “real-time audit” — the first time he’s ever done so — into a controversial, $432 million, no-bid-contract with the firm DocGo, to provide services to migrants in the city. Earlier this month, Mayor Eric Adams dismissed concerns raised by Lander that DocGo was ill-suited for the work.

Under normal circumstances, audits by Lander’s team follow the completion of a contract. In this case, Lander said, scrutiny will begin as soon as DocGo’s invoices are received.

“Emergency procurement is one important ability that city agencies have,” Lander said. “But it cannot be a blank check to enter into a no-bid, $432 million contract with a medical services firm that doesn’t have experience providing shelter and services to asylum-seekers, without the adequate due diligence and integrity that is required.”

DocGo spokesperson Abigail Rush said in a statement the company is fully prepared to deliver on the contract and would comply with Lander’s inquiry.

“DocGo’s contract with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development has been formally registered with the City. This program is designed to help the City deliver housing and essential services to care for vulnerable individuals and prevent families and children from sleeping on the streets,” Rush said.

She added, “We are fully committed to delivering quality services and believe in the positive impact that the program has on those in our care. We will cooperate fully with any information requested during the Comptroller’s audit.”

Lander’s comments follow the resignation of DocGo’s CEO Anthony Capone on Friday, a day after the Albany Times Union reported that Capone lied about earning a master’s degree.

The comptroller granted the city prior approval last year to fast track emergency contracts to house and care for newly arrived migrants, and bypass the normal approval process. City Hall spokesperson Charles Lutvak emphasized the importance of the emergency contracting powers.

“If the comptroller decides to put politics over the welfare of people seeking asylum and declare this crisis no longer an emergency, asylum seekers will have to sleep on the street while they wait for the comptroller to approve city contracts,” Lutvak said in a statement, adding that the city holds its contractors to the “highest standards” for providing services.

On Monday, Lander told reporters that a year ago he imagined the emergency contracts would be for local hotels, which the city has previously booked when running low on homeless shelter space.

Now, with over 59,000 migrants in the city’s care, the shelter network has ballooned to over 100 different sites, including sprawling weatherized tent cities and a network of upstate hotels and motels, which DocGo was hired to help manage.

“The DocGo contract illustrates some of the kinds of concerns we have that the blanket prior approval is too broad,” Lander said. He later added: “If you do something far beyond what’s standard, that’s going to take more review.”

Lander didn’t indicate when and if he would follow through and revoke the city’s “blanket prior approval,” as he put it. But he made plain it was no idle threat, adding he would not raise the prospect unless “we’re reconsidering it, unless we were looking at it pretty seriously.”

Lander also said he may “narrow” the city’s emergency contracting powers, rather than entirely revoke them. For example, he may still provide prior approval to certain “standard” contracts, but withhold approval for other, more atypical deals.

In a letter to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development earlier this month, Lander said the agency provided “little evidence” to show that DocGo had enough experience to perform the contract.

He also referenced “numerous reports” of staff mistreating or misleading asylum-seekers, providing subpar services, and failing to properly respond to reported assaults. Lander strongly urged the city agency to reconsider hiring DocGo, while Adams signaled his intent to move forward.

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