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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Review of Cuomo ‘Buffalo Billion’ finds ‘sloppy’ work

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has doubled to $1 million the contract for a private company he hired after his Buffalo Billion economic development project came under federal investigation, according to records released Friday.

The contract with Guidepost Solutions, whose CEO is Bart M. Schwartz, will cost as much as $1.04 million under an amended contract outlined in April letter from Cuomo’s counsel and obtained through the state Freedom of Information Law.

So far, the company has found systemic problems in its review of the Buffalo Billion economic development project, according to a spokeswoman for state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

“The final contract represents a wider than anticipated scope of these tasks, which included sifting through hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, meetings, and other tasks associated with the review of $400 million in contractual payments and the development of new, stronger protocols for state agencies,” said Jason Conwall, spokesman for Cuomo’s Empire State Development agency.

Other comptroller’s documents obtained through FOIL say $49 million in spending on the project lacked sufficient documentation and authorization, according to a Guidepost letter dated in April and first reported by The Buffalo News.

That letter also expressed concern about hiring goals and practices and “change orders,” which are added expenses required of contractors after the state contract was publicly approved.

Guidepost said the added costs for construction, machinery and equipment exceeded the amount approved by the State Legislature and the state Public Authorities Control Board.

The Cuomo administration released another April letter stating that it has addressed concerns about the operation of Buffalo billion, and that the change orders will not take the project over budget.

The U.S. attorney’s office is investigating the Buffalo Billion project, which provided lucrative contracts to some of Cuomo’s major campaign contributors, although Cuomo hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing.

Joseph Percoco, who was a longtime top aide to Cuomo and one of his closest friends, faces charges related to allegations of bid rigging. Percoco has pleaded not guilty.

Schwartz “found a ‘sloppy process’ and ‘systemic problems,’” said DiNapoli spokeswoman Jennifer Freeman. “His reports clearly demonstrate why we need to tighten oversight over economic development spending and fix the weaknesses in the procurement process.”

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