New York City watchdog to audit migrant housing provider

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(The Center Square) — New York City’s fiscal watchdog is auditing a $432 million contract with a private vendor to provide housing and other services for asylum seekers and threatening to curb Mayor Eric Adams’ authority to sign emergency contracts.

In a letter to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander said he has “serious concerns” about DocGo — a medical services company hired by the city to care for tens of thousands of migrants — and its performance under the no-bid contract.

“There remains a clear and demonstrated need for flexibility and urgency as city agencies respond to the continued arrival of thousands of people here each month,” Lander wrote. “However, after 18 months, this is no longer an unexpected situation that merits the broad suspension of due diligence processes to ensure that city funds are being spent wisely and with integrity.”

Lander said the contract also “raises broader concerns” about the Adams administration’s use of emergency procurement, which the comptroller’s office authorized in 2022.

“The City Charter and NYC Procurement Policy Board rules allow agencies to enter into contracts quickly to meet the needs of an emergency,” he wrote. “However, the emergency procurement process does not absolve agencies of the responsibility to select vendors carefully, attend to cost considerations, and perform vendor oversight throughout the duration of the contract.”

The $432 million contract between NYC and DocGo calls for providing housing, food and other needs for more than 62,000 migrants under the city’s care. The company was hired under emergency procedures that waived the city’s standard competitive bidding requirements.

Despite concerns raised by Lander in a previous letter to the city, Adams decided to move ahead with the contract, and his administration has defended the company’s work.

“If the comptroller decides to put politics over the welfare of people seeking asylum and declare this crisis is no longer an emergency, asylum seekers will have to sleep on the street while they wait for the comptroller to approve city contracts,” Adams spokesman Charles Kretchmer Lutvak said in a statement to news outlets.

DocGo, based in New York, has been plagued by allegations that it was ill-equipped to handle the ongoing migrant crisis after being handed the no-bid contract.

Last week, the company’s chief executive, Anthony Capone, resigned after admitting he falsely claimed on his resume that he had a graduate degree in artificial intelligence.

Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Letitia James has launched an investigation into allegations that DocGo has been deceiving and threatening migrants while failing to vet security officers properly.

In a statement, Lander said there are “too many outstanding questions and concerns” about the private company and its performance not to conduct an audit.

“New Yorkers deserve real-time oversight and accountability to understand how this price tag was reached, ensure this company has the experience to provide the contracted services, and vet the integrity and responsibility of this vendor,” he said.

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