ALBANY -- New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the state paid more than $1.9 million in interest for late payments to vendors during the last fiscal year, up almost 40 percent from a year earlier.

DiNapoli says that's a waste of taxpayer dollars.

According to the comptroller's office, the leading agency in interest payments was the Department of Health at $1.3 million, followed by the State University of New York at nearly $110,000 and the Department of Transportation at almost $87,000.

A Health Department spokesman says more than 99 percent of its contracts are paid on time and the agency strives to accomplish that with all its contracts.

Meanwhile, state auditors also said three contractors providing special education services for prekindergarten children spent public money on expenses such as no-show jobs, private landscaping and improper bonuses.

DiNapoli says children with special needs were shortchanged, and the review of the state's $2 billion program so far has led to four arrests and restitution of $610,000.

In New York, the state Education Department, through private contractors, provides special education services to children ages 3 to 21. Contractors are reimbursed by New York City and the counties.

There are 18 audits under way.

Three audits released Monday claim $250,000 of improper costs at Important Steps in the Bronx; $385,000 at Special Education Associates in Brooklyn; and $831,000 at Capital District Beginnings in Troy.

The contractors dispute several audit findings.

Latest videos

DON'T MISS THIS LIMITED-TIME OFFER1 5 months for only $1Save on Unlimited Digital Access