Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Letter from Public Advocate, Education Chair Dromm and Class Size Matters demanding more transparency concerning $1.25 billion DOE IT contract, due to be voted on next week
This proposed $1.25 BILLION DOE technology contract is to be voted on next week by the PEP but is only briefly described here: http://tinyurl.com/q7c986z. This is yet another indication that the enhanced financial transparency promised by the new administration has not been achieved -- along with the DOE's decision to close School Leadership Team meetings to the public, about which we've been forced to intervene in court. Thanks to the Public Advocate Tish James and CM Dromm for taking this issue on.
Updaate: The unconvincing response from Ursula Ramirez, chief of staff to Chancellor Farina, dated Feb.23 is posted here.
If you'd like to write to the members of the PEP expressing your concerns, their emails are here:
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February 18, 2015
VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL
Vanessa Leung, Chair
Department of Education Panel for Educational Policy
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007
Robert Powell, Chair
Department of Education Committee on Contracts
65 Court Street, 12th Floor
Brooklyn, New York 11201
Dear Ms. Leung and Mr. Powell:
We are writing to express our concern about the lack of transparency around spending and contracts at the Department of Education (DOE). It has come to our attention that on February 25th, 2015, the DOE Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) will vote on a five year contract for IT services totaling almost $1.25 billion, and almost no information has been provided about the contract.
It is not secret that the DOE has a deplorable record when it comes to issuing technology contracts. Millions of dollars have been sacrificed due to mismanagement, waste, and corruption. It is shocking that the DOE thinks it is acceptable to vote on another contract without full disclosure and vetting available to the community, elected officials, and the public at large.
The contract in question is for Custom Computer Specialists to provide IT networking hardware and installation services at $224.8 million per year. This little amount of information was posted on the DOE website. However, no information has been provided about the particulars of the contract, whether it was competitively bid, or what investigations the DOE may have done concerning the record and/or background of this company.
DOE officials have stated that PEP members receive more documentation for its contracts five to six days before the vote, but this information is only posted to the public one business day before the vote. Even this promise of limited transparency is false. For the most recent vote on January 29th, information on the contracts was not posted until several days after. We are calling on the DOE to post the full documentation for all contracts at least ten days before the vote – at the same time as the list of contracts is made public.
Simply put: transparency and accountability must be the bedrock of any contracts issued using public money.
We are also calling on the DOE to make public the full documentation and information for the Custom Computer Specialists contract as soon as possible. If the DOE refuses, we urge you – as appointees whose role is to represent the interests of the public – to make this information available as soon as you receive it.
Public Advocate for the City of New York
Councilmember, Chair of the NYC Council Education Committee
Executive Director, Class Size Matters
Cc: DOE Chancellor Carmen Fariña