NEW YORK - Since January 2010, the City has spent more than $17 billion on different kinds of contracts. Sadly, only 2.3 percent (i.e. $397.5 million) went to businesses run by minorities and women, according to a report just published by City Comptroller John Liu.
"There is no shortage of talent in New York City," Comptroller Liu said. "The challenge is to make sure everyone has an equal chance to get a foot in the door. Right now the door is being slammed in the face of New York's diverse and ambitious population. When government draws from a bigger talent pool it means increased competition for city dollars and greater savings for city taxpayers."
The data on city contracts given by different City agencies to businesses that are in the hands of minorities (including immigrant groups, Latinos, African Americans and Asians) as well as women have been available since last Thursday at the city comptroller's website (MyMoneyNYC.com) and can be found under M/WBE Report Card NYC (Minorities/Women-owned Business Enterprises).
The findings of the reports confirm that contracts to these businesses represent small fraction of all the contracts the City awards for jobs such as cleaning, construction, remodeling, catering, and transportation services.
"The truth is that for many years contracts have been given to the same big companies," said Comptroller Liu at a press conference held at his office. "I have no doubt that the allotment process is unjust."
He also added that giving contracts to minorities is regulated by Local Law 129, a city regulation that went into force in 2005. Its purpose is to make it possible for businesses run by minorities to compete with others for city contracts. Mr. Liu, then on the City Council, was one of the sponsors of the regulation. "However, five years later, it is evident that the City has not fulfilled its promise," Liu said.
Additionally, the comptroller pointed out that the City will certainly try to defend itself by saying that his report focuses only on big contractors, omitting the fact that they often hire smaller subcontractors, frequently run by immigrants or other minorities, to do certain jobs. Even if it is true, Liu pointed out it is important to remember that the money paid out by the City goes mainly into the pocket of the primary contractor, which later pays a portion to the company it has subcontracted.
Representatives of City agencies often argue that in choosing where to award contracts they consider the best priced offers. "For me this argument is not acceptable. It suggests that businesses run by minorities are not able to offer anything of value," Liu said.
According to Mr. Liu, his own agency did not do too well in the report, giving few (only 5 percent) contracts to minority-run businesses.
"I hope that this report will encourage commissioners of various agencies to a fairer allocation of City money," comptroller Liu said.
The report was met with the support of many New York politicians. "It is troubling in this day and age, when minorities and women make up almost 80 percent of the city's population, to see so few city contracts with MWBEs," commented New York State Senator José Peralta.