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November 18, 2005

Comptroller proposes broad reforms of public authorities

State Comptroller Alan Hevesi has proposed new regulations to require “more transparent, timely and accurate financial reporting” by 215 public authorities in New York State that have statewide or regional significance.

Similar regulations were issued for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) last year, the comptroller’s release said.

“Public authorities are an immense shadow government that have offered continuous and unambiguous proof of the truism that, when no one is watching, the increase in mismanagement and corruption is dramatic,” Hevesi said.

He said the new regulations, which are to be be implemented after a period of review and comment, “will set a new standard for financial reporting and will require public authorities to make basic financial information available to the public. These rules are a step towards making public authorities fully accountable to the public they serve.”

The release said a new analysis by the comptroller’s offices that public authority spending and debt are growing.

The survey, which covered authority fiscal years ending in 2004-05, found that:

“It is absolutely absurd that these public authorities are still not answerable to any public body, and that even after all the irregularities we have uncovered, there remains no central accounting for the billions of dollars that flow through these entities. The public deserves to know how all this money is being spent and whether decisions are proper and appropriate,” the comptroller said.

The new regulations would:

There was some question about the comptroller’s standing to unilaterally issue the regulations.

“The comptroller made some positive suggestions, which we will certainly take under advisement,” said Kevin Quinn, a spokesman for Governor Pataki, told the Syracuse Post-Standard. “However, we remain unconvinced that he has any actual legal standing to require these changes.”