A consulting firm who’s billing practices were heavily criticized in a state report last week has ties to the state Thruway Authority, which is standing by the work performed by the consultant.
Navigant Consulting was the subject of scrutiny from the state Moreland Commission, a board put together by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to probe the response from power utilities to Superstorm Sandy last year. Navigant had been paid $28 million by the Long Island Power Authority between 2008 and 2011, with the Moreland panel finding “highly questionable” billing issues, reimbursements for little or no work and a “revolving door” between LIPA and the consulting firm.
Navigant’s work for state authorities stretches beyond LIPA, however. Last year, the company performed an expedited review of the state Thruway Authority’s finances and management as the authority looked at a hefty toll increase for trucks — a plan that was eventually scuttled.
But Navigant never contracted directly with Thruway Authority, according to state records. Its report was actually funded through a contract with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, an agreement that may get extra scrutiny from that authority’s inspector general.
In a statement, Thruway spokesman Dan Weiller defended the Navigant report, which was critical of the authority’s prior management and was used as evidence in support of the proposed toll hike.
“The Port Authority undertook the study in close collaboration with the Thruway Authority,” Weiller said. “This kind of collaboration is common practice among state agencies and authorities. The end result was completed in six weeks and provided timely and much-needed insights for Thruway leadership.”
Upon the release of the Moreland Commission report, Navigant also defended its work for the state while pledging to cooperate with any potential investigations.
“While from a financial perspective our New York public sector revenues are not material to the overall financial health of the company, our current and future relationships with this client base are very important to us,” Navigant CEO Julie Howard said in a statement. “We intend to continue serving this client base with the same level of quality we have always delivered, and are proud of the outcomes we have had to date on behalf of the people of New York.”
UPDATE: A look at Navigant’s other state contracts turned up an interesting aside. The company had a $49,500 contract with the state Department of Financial Services to assist with grant writing for the federal Affordable Care Act. The agency’s superintendent is Benjamin Lawsky, who also headed the Moreland Commission.
The Navigant contract with DFS expired March 31.