City Comptroller Audit Finds DOB Failed To Fully Implement Crane Safety Report

In four years, Buildings has enacted eight of sixty-five safety recommendations after spending $5.8 million on a study. On November 7, 2014, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer released an audit finding the Department of Buildings has failed to act upon recommendations for crane safety that came from a report they commissioned, four years after the report was issued.

In July 2008, Buildings requested a High Risk Construction Oversight study to evaluate their regulatory framework and construction industry practices after two crane collapses killed six people earlier that year. Buildings paid CTL Engineers & Construction Technology Consultants, P.C. $3.91 million to perform the study and make recommendations, which was completed in June 2009 with sixty-five recommended changes. In response, Buildings developed a plan to implement forty-nine of the recommendations within two years, leaving the remaining sixteen for additional analysis. Buildings retained CTL on a $1.9 million contract to help implement the recommendations.

The audit found that Buildings had only fully implemented eight out of the sixty-five recommendations. The audit also found seventeen recommendations partially implemented, eighteen in progress, and twenty-two not implemented at all. The audit pointed out Buildings is two years past the date its plan established for fully enacting forty-nine of the recommendations. The audit also found “serious weaknesses” in Buildings’ internal controls and oversight of the implementation process, citing a lack of any one person or group with the responsibility to enact the plan. The audit further found Buildings lacked oversight of CTL’s performance under the implementation contract, estimating the value of CTL’s unperformed work at $357,000. The audit also found Buildings’ documentation of negotiating the implementation contract was inadequate, though it did not find any evidence of impropriety.

On September 18, 2014, Deputy Comptroller for Audit Marjorie Landa submitted a draft of the audit report to Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler. The report recommended Buildings comprehensively review the Oversight study to ensure the recommendations are still relevant; to develop formal tracking and reporting requirements for implementation; to create a competent project management team responsible for independently verifying implementation as well as tracking and reporting; to ensure formal documentation for all actions; to maintain appropriate files and adequately monitor consultant contracts; and to ensure all contracts specify when consultant’s work product belongs to Buildings. In written response, Commissioner Chandler agreed with nearly every recommendation of the audit, but argued “[W]e find some of your conclusions to be very misleading and/or inaccurate.” The Commissioner went on to state the audit ignored Buildings creating a Concrete Unit and an in-house Curriculum Specialist. In response, Deputy Comptroller Landa wrote Buildings failed to explain its “misleading and/or inaccurate” assertion, and pointed out the Oversight recommendations have not been fully implemented regardless of the Concrete Unit or Curriculum Specialist.

Audit Report on the Department of Buildings’ Compliance with the High Risk Construction Oversight Study. 7E13-124A, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer (November 7, 2014).

By: Michael Twomey (Michael is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2014).

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