By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New York City Comptroller John Liu said the Comptroller’s office may reject future contracts with Hewlett-Packard (HP) if the company fails to reimburse taxpayers for the up to $163 million it owes the city for botching the upgrade of the 911 call center in Brooklyn.
In a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Liu says HP owes the city the money for blatant overbilling as a contractor on the project, known as the Emergency Communications Transformation Program (ECTP), which was completed last month -- nearly eight years behind schedule and more than $1 billion over budget.
NYPD, FDNY and Emergency Medical Dispatch services are located at MetroTech in Downtown Brooklyn. The ECTP was meant to get all three systems to operate using the same technology so emergency responses can be coordinated.
“Doing business with the City of New York is a privilege, not a lifetime guarantee,” Liu wrote. “Let’s be clear: HP is not the only vendor the City can use to purchase printers, laptops, and servers. It’s about time we teach companies that their attempts to cheat New York City taxpayers will have serious consequences.”
HP consistently failed to meet contractual requirements, double-billed for some services, and hired subcontractors to perform much of the work and then marked up their bills by 54 percent – well beyond the 25 percent markup allowed, according to the Comptroller.
Sloppy or possibly fraudulent charges include low-level administrative assistants billed as higher paid program analysts; unauthorized overtime and impossible timesheets. For example, more than a thousand hours were entered onto timesheets as long as a month before the actual dates occurred. Two consultants submitted identical timesheets.
HP also charged the city $192 an hour for activities not billable under the contract: binding documents, opening the office door to visitors, posting a calendar in a conference room and cleaning a bathroom.
The audit found that HP’s work on the 911 call center was “so poorly monitored and rife with billing and other errors” that Liu referred the matter to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for further review.
Mayor Bloomberg’s office has dismissed the audit’s findings as inaccurate. Liu's audit "grossly misrepresented many aspects of HP's role and performance," City Hall spokesman Kamran Mumtaz told the Daily News on Thursday.
Hewlett-Packard shares rose on Friday after the company's better-than-expected quarterly results and forecasts prompted at least eight brokerages to raise price targets on the troubled stock, according to Reuters. The company has cut costs under Chief Executive Meg Whitman.