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An $80 million Oops

All eyes were focused at the end of 2010 on the Baysider who ran the agency that allowed the city to be swindled out of $80 million. Joel Bondy, executive director of the city Office of Payroll Administration, was suspended last month without pay. A few days later he announced his resignation effective Dec. 31. So far he has not been charged with any crime by federal prosecutors.

CityTime, which began in the 1990s, has been, in the mayor’s own words, a “disaster.” And that was before he found out about the $80 million fraud. The budget for CityTime, which was supposed to cost $68 million, has ballooned to $700 million.

It is mind-boggling that the spending could skyrocket without any concern. Why didn’t alarms go off when the massive cost overruns started showing up? So far there is no evidence that Bondy benefitted from the alleged scam, but he was making $205,000 a year to run the payroll administration and should have known where every penny was going.

The finger-pointing cannot stop with Bondy. CityTime, a software system that moved the city from paper to electronic timekeeping, has been one of Bloomberg’s top priorities. It was designed to reduce paperwork and improve efficiency.

How is it possible no one noticed an $80 million fraud? Where was Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who was directed by the mayor to give CityTime “high-level attention”? Where was the City Council committee charged with oversight of this operation? Why did it take so long to launch an investigation?

City Comptroller John Liu blew the whistle. The comptroller’s office should have been looking closely at the cost overruns with CityTime long before Liu was elected in 2009. The first mission of the comptroller’s office is to make certain that taxpayer dollars are being properly spent. We agree with Liu, who said last month that the scandal “further underscores the need to more closely monitor expensive outside consultant contracts.”

At a time when the city is cutting its budget, this level of waste and fraud is disgusting. The people connected with CityTime were allegedly putting $80 million into their pockets and no one noticed for a long time.

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