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NYC Auditor Claims Fraud in $163M Overbilling for Emergency Call System

Mayor and city officials vehemently contest accusations

2 min read
NYC Auditor Claims Fraud in $163M Overbilling for Emergency Call System

Last April, I blogged about the long-running problems with New York City’s attempts to modernize its 911 emergency call system. The latest effort, called the Emergency Communications Transformation Program (ECTP), began in 2005 at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion and a completion date of 2007 has ballooned into a $2.3 billion plus effort with a completion date of (hopefully) 2015.

A new audit report released by New York City Comptroller John Liu yesterday raised previous charges of incompetent project management to the level of potential fraud on the part of Hewlett-Packard, the original prime system integrator on the project.

Liu’s press release states that  “the contractor selected to streamline the City’s vital 911 call system was unqualified and so poorly monitored that it was able to overbill taxpayers by as much as $163 million.  Because of the severity of the findings and potential for fraud in both the vendor selection and billing processes, Comptroller Liu has referred the matter to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for further review.”

Echoing the earlier charges of incompetent, Liu also says that the cost of the system could rise another $362 million because the work required was poorly performed.

City officials as well as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have vehemently repudiated the audit findings. According to the Comptroller’s Office, the audit is “premised on a fundamental misunderstanding of the scope of HP’s work as system integrator… This misunderstanding is also the basis of the audit’s unsupportable conclusion that the system integration work for ECTP ‘could be’ up to $362 million over budget.”

The Comptroller Office unsurprisingly “strongly disagree(s)” with the City’s objections. Similarly unsurprisingly, HP has had no comment so far on the accusations contained within the audit report.

Most disagreements like this can be put down to politics—in this case, the mayor is still smarting over the CityTime scandal that Liu helped bring to light, and for his part, Liu will likely be running for mayor next year and wants to be seen as a stalwart steward of the taxpayer's money—but it seems likely that there's yet another financial scandal looming here.

 

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

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A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar
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You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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