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Audit: Power Authority overstated jobs from discounted power

New York Power Authority president Gil C. Quiniones

New York Power Authority president Gil C. Quiniones speaks to the media during a tour of Autronic Plastics Inc. in Central Islip on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The state Power Authority overstated by 29,800 the number of jobs across New York supported by allocations of its low-cost electricity, according to an audit released Monday.

However, officials said no business or not-for-profit received energy to which it wasn’t entitled.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli took issue with how the ReCharge NY program counts job commitments by companies receiving discounted power. He said the jobs shouldn’t be counted until after employers have signed contracts for cheap electricity, rather than after a power allocation has been approved by the authority’s board.

He cited 18 instances of allocations being rescinded or declined before contracts could be signed, between December 2015 and April. The number of jobs supported by discounted power was overstated by 8 percent, he said.

Authority spokesman Steven Gosset said, “Any supposed deficiencies in the ReCharge NY program identified in the report, including the calculation of retained jobs, are erroneous.”

In a written response to the 27-page audit, Authority CEO Gil C. Quiniones said the number of jobs counted without signed contracts was 2 percent of the total as of June.

DiNapoli said the authority “needs to hold all customers to the same rules when verifying job promises and accurately report this information to taxpayers.”

His office found the authority allowed 12 ReCharge NY customers to provide alternative data instead of payroll records to prove that job commitments were being kept. He said the practice was unsatisfactory.

Quiniones said 11 of the 12 customers “had provided sufficient evidence in the form of payroll reports or other agreed-upon documentation to support the customer’s compliance.” One customer provided certified compliance reports because its power allocation covers multiple businesses, which was satisfactory, he said.

The audit was DiNapoli’s first since Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State Legislature established ReCharge NY in 2011 to supply low-cost electricity to businesses, hospitals and not-for-profits across the state. The program replaces one begun about 20 years ago.

The findings are based on a sample of 35 ReCharge NY customers and applicants, including four from Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to DiNapoli spokeswoman Jennifer Freeman.

She declined to identify those audited, saying confidentiality was granted in return for access to financial records. About 735 companies and not-for-profits participate in the program statewide.

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