Stringer says city moving backward when it comes to M/WBEs

Stringer says city moving backward when it comes to M/WBEs

Stringer says city moving backward when it comes to business with M/WBEs
October 31, 2016

“We’re going backwards,” New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said at a press conference on Monday. “For too long, New York City has accepted the fact that women- and minority-owned businesses don’t get a fair shot at success, and that’s simply unacceptable.”

While unveiling his annual report card on the matter, Stringer said only 4.8 percent of the city’s $15.3 billion procurement budget went to minority- and women-owned business enterprises in fiscal year 2016 compared to 5.3 percent the year before.

Overall, the comptroller’s team gave New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration a “D+” grade, the same mark it received last year. Stringer said his office examined its record of doing business with M/WBEs as well as 31 mayoral agencies’ practices and determined nearly half of the agencies earned “F” or “D” grades. The Business Integrity Commission, Department of Buildings and Department of Sanitation all received “Fs,” while the Department of Housing Preservation and Development got the sole “A” mark.

Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, also the director of M/WBEs, called Stringer’s report factually inaccurate. Specifically, the administration pointed to the comptroller’s team comparing business with M/WBEs to trade with all contractors, and said a more accurate analysis would include only agreements in industries explicitly covered by a law governing the M/WBE Program. The administration argues Stringer should have used awarded contracts - not payments linked to them - in his report because payments may stem from agreements made under prior administrations.

“Comptroller Stringer is wrong on the facts,” Buery said in a statement that highlighted the administration’s preferred statistics and long-term goal of awarding 30 percent of the value of its contracts to M/WBE firms by 2021. “Our contracts went to M/WBEs 14 percent of the time, up from 8 percent in the year prior. We are well on our way to awarding 30 percent of the value of our contracts to this important community of businesses.”

The comptroller, however, said he was focused on how much money flowed to M/WBEs rather than the aspirations presented in contracts. Both Stringer and the de Blasio administration agree that state laws should be altered so they allow the city to more frequently consider a firm’s M/WBE designation, rather than requiring the government to award contracts to the lowest responsible bidder.

Still Stringer said he had several other suggestions for City Hall. He said the city should pre-qualify small business and M/WBEs to compete against similarly-sized firms for a pool of contracts, should launch a mentorship program that spans the entire lifecycle of a contract and should replace various government M/WBE certification applications with a universal one.

Above all, Stringer said the city should appoint a full-time chief diversity officer, which he said helped his office do business with more M/WBEs.

“We need to think about this and organize a way that builds a movement through the lens of accountability and transparency. And that’s why we need a chief diversity officer,” Stringer said at a roundtable with business leaders held before the report card was released. “It’s very hard to turn out 10,000 people for a rally on procurement perform - nobody ever says, ‘No procurement, no peace.”’

Some minority trade groups believe a chief diversity officer would bolster accountability within agencies and would institutionalize the goal of conducting businesses with more M/WBEs beyond any single administration.

De Blasio’s administration has resisted calls from minority trade groups to hire a chief diversity officer, saying they are sufficiently focused on the matter. Deputy Mayor Richard Buery currently directs the M/WBE Program, and earlier this year, the administration announced it was launching the Mayor’s Office of M/WBEs and placing Rev. Jonnel Doris at its helm.


Sarina Trangle