Comptroller Scolds DHS For Emergency Shelter Placement Policies drawing the ire of civic groups and elected officials who claimed the agency only notified them of the situation the day the move took place. The move came after DHS Assistant Commissioner Lisa Black, during a Community Board 5 public hearing on a proposed homeless shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale, claimed the agency deemed the PanAmerican unsuitable for a shelter. Sources familiar with the Comptroller’s office told the Times Newsweekly the DHS housed homeless persons at the Pan American through an emergency contract the comptroller’s office approved. Samaritan Village, the nonprofit group backing the proposed Glendale homeless shelter for up to 125 families, also submitted plans to the DHS to permanently convert the Pan American into a homeless shelter serving more than 200 families. Both plans were in response to an open-ended DHS request for homeless shelter proposals. According to sources, the Comptroller’s office has not received any DHS contracts for either the Glendale shelter—which, since it requires renovation, cannot be used as an emergency shelter—or to permanently establish the former Pan American as a homeless shelter. City contracts undergo an extensive review process through several different agencies— including the Law Department, the City Office of Contracts and the Office of Management and Budget—before reaching the Comptroller’s office. Given the extensive review process, it could take months or years before either contract reaches the Comptroller’s office, a source familiar with the office’s operations told the Times Newsweekly on Tuesday, July 22. Furthermore, the source stated, the comptroller has the authority to approve or, for a variety of reasons, reject any city contract following a review. At Board 5’s July meeting, as previously reported, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi told residents the comptroller could only reject a contract “if the numbers do not add up.” Meanwhile, Stringer called for the DHS to begin mending fences in communities affected by homeless shelters already in operation—or soon to open—“by creating a robust consultative process with community stakeholders” and allowing “for meaningful input from local stakeholders, advisory groups and elected officials.” “Most importantly, DHS must clearly delineate for the public what its consultative process will entail, with transparent and dependable timelines, so that communities and stakeholders are no longer notified of new sites at the 11th hour,” Stringer added in his letter. “If DHS continues to neglect communities until after emergency contracting decisions have been made, it will neither benefit from local knowledge of the area, nor engender harmonious integration with the surrounding communities.” Stringer further suggested “a larger five-borough solution” that includes ways “to reduce the total number of individuals in need of transitional housing and metrics to judge the plan as it progresses.” According to his letter, approximately 54,439 people—43 percent of whom were children— were living in city shelters as of last Tuesday, July 15. “Only with such a plan can we begin to delineate the difference between a true emergency situation and a persistent failure to solve an ongoing, decades-long problem,” he added, going on to note, “given the magnitude of this crisis for both those in need of housing and the local communities that feel ignored, I do not believe we can wait to have this conversation.” Days before Stringer wrote to Taylor, Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano wrote to Stringer and forwarded the board’s concerns over the Glendale shelter contract and the location itself. A long unused factory situated adjacent to the Independent Chemical Corporation, critics of the proposal claim the site may be contaminated; a DHS environmental study concluded the location was safe. “We believe that no one, especially children, should be housed in such a potentially dangerous environment,” Giordano told Stringer in his July 11 letter. The district manager further questioned the DHS contract with Samaritan Village, in which the city would pay the nonprofit group more than $27 million over five years for the shelter’s operation. “Considering that the contract, if approved, would include an estimated 10 month period for building cleanup and renovation, the contract cost is overly expensive,” Giordano stated. “To our knowledge, the Department of Homeless Services standard reimbursement to the sponsoring organization is $120 per day for each family. Therefore, the cost of housing each family at this very questionable location for the period (1,520 days) when they would be living there is $182,400.” “The contract is to house 125 families at this location,” he continued. “The total cost for this contract should be $22,800,000, not $27,543,216. This is a difference of more than $4.7 million.” -CONTINUED FROM PG. 6- Audit Blasts DHS For Post-Sandy Homeless Aid entered into 20 emergency contracts, totaling $19.9 million, with various organizations to provide services for displaced victims. They included assistance with registering and applying for public benefits, securing permanent housing or home repair and obtaining medical help. Stringer’s audit examined a sample of eight of the 20 contracts from October 2012 through November 2013 and found the following weaknesses in DHS’s oversight: The agency reportedly lacked formal and standardized procedures to guide the oversight and monitoring of the emergency contracts. When asked to detail its internal controls to monitor these emergency contracts, the agency failed to provide any. In an effort to explain this failure, DHS noted that the contracts at issue were overseen during an emergency situation. However, of the 20 contracts DHS awarded, 14 were extended well beyond the storm’s immediate aftermath, the comptroller noted. Therefore, he concluded, DHS had ample opportunity to develop and apply reasonable controls, particularly over the contracts that extended past the immediate emergency. According to Stringer, DHS lacked sufficient evidence to support the oversight and monitoring activities it claims to have engaged in. DHS did not produce diaries, logs, observation notes, records of site visits, monitoring tools, or other similar documentation proving that the emergency contract managers made site visits and fulfilled other appropriate monitoring activities, as required by city procurement regulation. Invoices and supporting documentation were not adequately reviewed prior to payment. The Comptroller’s audit found that managers failed to adequately examine invoices, resulting in DHS erroneously paying for services that were either outside the contract scope, ineligible, or unsupported. For example, one vendor,Women in Need, claimed $28,000 for maintenance and cleaning during January 2013, even though the contract ended Dec. 23, 2012. DHS paid the invoice. In a second example, Help U.S.A. charged the agency $2,878 in personal service costs for at least 11 of the provider’s staff for days outside the contract period. Again, DHS paid this invoice. Stringer added that the emergency contract managers did not perform satisfaction surveys of shelter clients. The audit found that none of the emergency contract managers performed client evaluations as required by city procurement rules. Without documentation that adequate controls were in place and followed, the agency runs the risk of not getting reimbursed by FEMA for eligible services. “Taxpayers deserve to know that city government isn't going to make the same mistake twice when the next storm hits,” Stringer said. “By vigilantly monitoring operations and contractors, city agencies can ensure every tax dollar devoted to relief is spent prudently and efficiently, while also assuring that the city is reimbursed by the federal government for all eligible costs.” The comptroller’s first Sandyrelated audit is being issued in conjunction with the office’s newly established Sandy Oversight Unit, an effort dedicated to holding government accountable and improving service delivery in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Informed in part by the testimony of hundreds of New Yorkers who have come to testify at a series of formal hearings held by the comptroller across the city, this audit is one of several that Comptroller Stringer plans to issue over the coming months. Stringer’s audit recommended that DHS: • ensure it has clearly defined policies and operating procedures in place to address the oversight and monitoring of emergency contracts; • include the emergency contract monitoring procedures in its contingency planning documents and ensuring that necessary parties are aware of them; • establish standardized minimum requirements for emergency contract managers to document and log their activities; • ensure that those individuals assigned the responsibility of certifying vendor invoices have taken the necessary steps to verify that goods and services have been provided; • if it’s not feasible for contract managers to perform this verification on a monthly basis before authorizing payments to vendors, DHS should modify the certification statement signed by contract managers to reflect the circumstances and develop an alternate procedure; and • ensure that it requires contract managers to periodically interview or survey clients or their families to assess their satisfaction with services provided. According to Stringer, the DHS largely agreed to follow the comptroller’s recommendations, although it did not respond to the fourth recommendation. The DHS, however, has not yet detailed its plans to ensure adequate controls and monitoring for future emergencies. In the coming months, Stringer will reveal the results of other Sandy audits, including one of the city’s Build it Back Program. To read the full audit, visit www.comptroller.nyc.gov. -CONTINUED FROM PG. 6- TIMES, THURSDAY, JULY 24, 2014 • 28 Glendale Library Fix Coming said. “We are very excited to be restoring the Glendale Library,” Baird said. “It’s a wonderful building, but over the years there has been some neglect. It’s just a magnificent building.” The library was built with relief labor by the Work Experience Program in 1935 during the Great Depression. The original entry doors and granite steps will be refurbished, Baird said. Three large, currently sealed windows in the main reading room, and a garden in the rear will be reopened as well. The front stairs, and changes to the vestibule will restore additional original features to the building. In addition to restoring some of the original features, new signage, a book drop on Myrtle Avenue and new lighting will be installed. “Sadly gone are the original lamps,” Baird said. “Our plan is to restore the original landscaping and furniture. We’re going back to the original furniture layout.” Baird said “traditional” pieces from the era will be added as well. “We think we can restore the library to the clarity it once had,” he said. The garden will be spruced up with “indigenous plants that are local to the community,” Baird said. The design is to be completed by spring 2015, with work to be done by spring 2017, Baird said. -CONTINUED FROM PG. 8- Cats Rescued From R’wood Home dental problems or respiratory infections. “We worked in teams to secure the cats in cages and traps,” Coffey added. “We had an on-site veterinarian who assessed each animal for basic care.” The voluntary operation was critical to ensuring the cats were not seized by law enforcement agents and placed in caged shelters, she noted. As such, the animal experts were able to provide the felines immediate care. The veterinarian also administered vaccines to cats and spayed or neutered those felines that had not previously been altered, she noted. Fortunately, Coffey stated, “so many of them are placeable” and the Mayor’s Alliance was working yesterday, July 23, to find new homes or sanctuaries for the displaced felines. According to published reports, no charges were filed against Genna, but the Queens District Attorney’s office is conducting an investigation. Genna previously got in trouble back in 2006 after ASPCA Enforcement officers found dead felines in his freezer. “Animal hoarding, if it’s not addressed, has a 100 percent recidivism rate,” said Coffey, a social worker who said she’s studied such cases over the past 10 years. “The important issue is not only getting the animals out, but also making sure the situation does not recur.” To that end, the city’s Adult Protective Services is monitoring Genna to prevent him from hoarding felines in the future, she noted. -CONTINUED FROM PG. 10- HAVE YOU READ A BOOK WITH YOUR CHILD TODAY?
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