State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli accused the state Office for Technology on Tuesday of favoring certain companies in purchases that wasted millions of dollars, while landing a job for a former administrator's girlfriend at a company seeking to do business with the state.
Auditors accused the agency of once having "a culture, emanating from the highest levels of the agency, that disregarded" state law and guidelines, according to a report released by DiNapoli's office. Auditors said they identified a pattern of behavior in 2010.
The audit said some of the spending was done by officials for personal gain in a systematic breakdown of ethics. Those accusations have been referred to the State Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
The agency stated it "remains committed to ethics and integrity." It blamed the findings on its former executive, and the agency stated it didn't know of the activity until the auditors informed it.
"OFT will institute stronger internal controls," said spokeswoman Angela R. Liotta. "Additionally, OFT will be expanding its ethics and procurement lobbying law training."
A Feb. 21 letter from the agency said the auditors "mischaracterize the agency's current operations" and fail to note new policies. The agency blamed what auditors called a "disregard" of law on an agency administrator who left in December 2010, and whose boss left his job shortly after.
The agency is responsible for updating state government technology to create efficiencies and better service, often through the purchase of computer equipment.
"These officials were supposed to lead New York State's efforts to modernize technology, but my office found flagrant misconduct and that no one within OFT stepped forward to question these actions, indicating a systemic breakdown in agency ethics," DiNapoli said. "OFT's executive team needs to take immediate steps to address shortfalls in their organization that lead to this brazen abuse," he said.
Auditors recommend ethics training for "all staff, including senior and executive management."
The agency in its February letter to auditors said it appreciated many of the auditors' findings and is taking action. It said it also agrees ethics training is "imperative."
The audit concluded that in one case the agency wasted at least $1.5 million on a contract that totaled less than $6 million.
The Comptroller's Office audits state and local government operations.