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City Comptroller John Liu said his audit of an upgrade for a water pollution control plant in Astoria revealed that the city Department of Environmental Protection had paid almost $6.6 million in extra costs due to the consultants’ design flubs even though the consultants are expected to cover the cost.
Liu criticized the agency for not attempting to recoup the funds paid for the Bowery Bay project, but said since the DEP largely agreed with the findings, he was confident the DEP would get back the cash.
“It’s money badly needed for taxpayers,” he said.
The comptroller’s audit, released Nov. 19, said the DEP originally began awarding contracts in 2000 for upgrading the Bowery Bay Waste Water Treatment Plant, at 43-01 Berrian Blvd. in Astoria.
Companies that won the contracts included Frontier-Kemper/Durr/Perini JV in Astoria, Lafata Corallo Plumbing & Heating from Brooklyn, CDE Air Conditioning Co. from Brooklyn, Lipco Electrical Corp. from Astoria and Hazen and Sawyer, P.C. from Manhattan.
The contracts cost more than $213 million, but another $6,591,192 needed to be spent in change orders to account for mistakes and omissions on the part of the consultant designer but the agency did not try to get the money back, the audit found.
In a letter to Deputy Comptroller Tina Kim sent Oct. 29, DEP General Counsel John Rousakis said, “In general, the department does not dispute the findings or the recommendations.”
Liu said the DEP did not try to recoup the costs because while the department had established procedures for doing so, it did not have written standards or internal controls associated with recoupment, and that the 27 change orders associated with the project were put under multiple classifications, which made them hard to track.
The comptroller said the DEP created a new standard operating procedure to deal with construction problems, but he also recommended the department make sure the staff complies with the procedure, refer change orders for errors to its Errors and Omissions Panel, use only one classification for every error and send the errors from the Bowery Bay project to the internal panel.
Rousakis said the only recommendation the DEP disagreed with was to submit the Bowery Bay project errors to the panel, saying this is required when the problems add up to 5 percent of the construction contracts or more. The errors amount to about 4.3 percent of the $213 million project.
Liu’s office disagreed, citing the magnitude of the money lost from the change orders.
“This is not a small mistake,” he said. “We’re talking about $6.6 million.”
The comptroller said he was “not too surprised” by the results of the audit. He said city agencies should avoid using outside contractors too often but should manage the contractors tightly when using them is unavoidable.
“This seems to be a pattern,” he said. “We see this at other city agencies also.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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