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NYC deserves a D+ on hiring diverse contracting firms, comptroller says

Only about 5.5 percent of contract spending last fiscal year was awarded to companies owned by minorities or women, according to Scott Stringer.

Comptroller Scott Stringer wants to re-focus affordable housing

Comptroller Scott Stringer wants to re-focus affordable housing efforts on those most in need. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

When it comes to doing business with minority- and women-owned firms, the city's procurement record is a near-failure, according to a report released Tuesday.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer released the annual report card on equity in city contracting, which gave the municipal government a D+ grade. About $1 billion — or 5.5 percent — of the $19.3 billion spent on contracting last fiscal year was awarded to businesses that are owned by minorities or women, according to the report. 

Although a slightly larger share of city contracting went to minority- and women-owned firms last fiscal year compared to the prior fiscal year, the comptroller's team decided the progress was not enough to merit a higher grade. His office also gave the city a D+ in fiscal year 2016. 

Stringer has been pushing the city to have dedicated personnel tasked with ensuring agencies' contracting practices are inclusive. Specifically, he urged City Hall to appoint a chief diversity officer and to appoint diversity officers in each department. Stringer also wants the charter amended so that it adds deadlines to the contract review process, which he believes will reduce contract approval delays and make it easier for smaller, less established firms to do business with the government. 

"There needs to be someone in every city agency making sure minority- and women-owned businesses are being given a fair shot to get a piece of a $19 billion budget — that’s why the City Charter has to be changed to include a Chief Diversity Officer,” Stringer said in a statement. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio's office said Stringer's methodology included spending on contracts that were initially signed before de Blasio took office.

"The city has awarded more than $10 billion to minority- and women-owned businesses since this mayor started. We’ve awarded $3.7 billion to these important businesses this year alone," de Blasio spokesman Raul Contreras said in a statement. 

Across all its agencies, the city did the least business with black-owned companies when compared to firms led by other demographics, according to the report. For that reason, Stringer's team issued its lowest mark — an F — for City Hall's record of working with black-run businesses.

Despite the headlining D+, Stringer's report noted that some agencies had diversified their contracting practices. For instance, the Department of Health received an A last fiscal year, after previously getting a B. 

The comptroller's office, however, issued an F grade to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services for the second consecutive year. 

Correction: A prior version of this story did not include current grades for some city agencies because the comptroller's office mistakenly distributed older data. 

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