NYC comptroller sues city, mayor, claims millions were spent on unused medical supplies

Maia Anderson - Print  | 

New York City's comptroller, Scott Stringer, has sued the city and Mayor Bill de Blasio, claiming an emergency executive order signed by the mayor during the height of the pandemic that allowed him to bypass normal procurement procedures has led to the city overspending on medical supplies that were never delivered or never used, The New York Times reported. 

The executive order allowed city agencies to issue hundreds of contracts to obtain personal protective equipment and other medical supplies without oversight of the comptroller, who typically has to approve such contracts. Mr. de Blasio has extended the order more than 100 times, even as the pandemic has subsided and the city reopened, with the governor ending the state of emergency last month, the Times reported. 

The lawsuit, filed July 6 in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, calls for procurement rules to be restored and claims the city spent more than $6.9 billion in taxpayer money without proper supervision, which at times led to "widespread procurement failures, including overpayment and overpurchasing," the Times reported. 

"Millions of dollars have been spent on supplies that never materialized, ventilators that were never delivered, $8 million for N95 masks that weren't actually N95 masks," Mr. Stringer said during a news conference.

State officials have tried to get back millions of dollars paid to contractors that have failed to deliver supplies on time, according to the Times. For example, state officials awarded $86 million for 1,450 ventilators to a company that had never sold a single ventilator. The ventilators were never delivered, and the state was forced to cancel the contract. 

The lawsuit claims that roughly 75 percent of emergency contracts were awarded to first-time vendors and that the city has had to cancel $525 million in contracts and still seeks to recoup millions from vendors that failed to deliver, the Times reported. 

The mayor's decision to extend the order so many times is "arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, and is made in violation of lawful procedure," the lawsuit claims. 

A spokesperson for Mr. de Blasio told the Times: "During the greatest challenge our city has ever faced, emergency procurements have saved lives, period."

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