2005-07-08 / Community

Pheffer: Sweeping Oversight For Public Authorities

Assemblywoman Audrey I. Pheffer recently announced that the Assembly passed legislation to improve oversight of the state’s public authorities and public benefit corporations. The measure also has the support of the Senate and Governor.

“Scandals and fiscal mismanagement continue to plague public authorities,” said Pheffer. “New York State has nearly 900 public authorities and subsidiary corporations that operate largely under the radar of public scrutiny.

Authorities need to be reined in and made accountable, and this legislation will do so by making sure watchdogs are paying close attention to ethics and spending.”

Assemblywoman Pheffer said the need for greater oversight has been highlighted by numerous hearings conducted by the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions as well as a number of state Comptroller’s Office audits, which found fiscal discrepancies and mismanagement within the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Long Island Power Authority, the New York Power Authority, the New York Racing Authority, the New York State Canal Corporation, the New York State Thruway Authority and others.

The legislation (A.9007) that Assemblywoman Pheffer sponsored will:

Create an inspector general with jurisdiction over authorities – with a fixed term and salary to ensure independence – to make sure that authorities are given the kind of oversight they have been lacking; Create the Authority Budget Office to review the budgets of statewide and larger public authorities when the law takes effect, and smaller authorities one year later; Mandate training for authority board members, strengthen ethics and prohibit authority executives from sitting on authority boards to strengthen board oversight of the authorities they manage; Establish new rules to regulate the sale of authority property.

Assemblywoman Pheffer noted that the Assembly also passed a separate measure to limit the influence of lobbying on the awarding of state and local government contracts – including those of public authorities.

“These reform measures will increase accountability, improve public authority operations and ultimately save tax dollars,” said Pheffer. “The Assembly has taken the lead in making sure that these so-called shadow governments are brought out into the open, and it’s encouraging to see the Governor and Senate join in these reform efforts.”

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