NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A city investigation found too much reliance on outside consultants delayed the New York City 911 upgrade project and racked up costs, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.
The project, known as the Emergency Communications Transformation Program, “has suffered from significant mismanagement which at times was nothing short of governmental malpractice,” agency Commissioner Mark Peters said.
In May, Mayor Bill de Blasio halted an upgrade project for the 911 system and ordered a multi-agency review of delays, errors, and cost overruns, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
The report makes recommendations for how the project should move forward, including having one person leading it and making executive decisions. It also said there should be an integrity monitor to identify potential fraud and waste.
“We have identified the problems that have long plagued the ECTP, and we’re committed to taking the necessary corrective action to ensure the program is brought back on track, within our means and ahead of schedule,” de Blasio said.
Comptroller Scott Stringer said the project was originally slated to be finished in five years, but is now projected for 14 years.
“Our investigation showed that there was at least a billion dollars in cost overruns through the life of this project. There was some hundred contracts related to 911 and what was equally disturbing is that nobody was accountable, nobody was watching out for this project,” Comptroller Scott Stringer said.
Now, the administration is putting Information Technology Commissioner Anne Roest in charge of the project. As Lamb reported, Roest plans to curb the use of high-cost consultants and says the project will be divided into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Problems with the city’s Unified Call Taking emergency phone system have been going for years, Kramer reported in May. Issues include delays in response times and confusion about where calls are dispatched to.
A year ago, there was a four-minute delay in dispatching an ambulance to an Upper West Side car crash where 4-year-old Ariel Russo was clinging to life.
Ariel died and her family blamed her death on the bungled 911 call. They have filed a lawsuit against the city, the FDNY and the NYPD.
“The system is no more dependable today than it was 10 years ago,” City Council member Elizabeth Crowley (D-30th) said in May.
The city began the effort to modernize its 911 system in 2004. The need became tragically clear during the Sept. 11 attacks when different city agencies’ systems were unable to communicate with each other.
A new system with easier technology, an upgraded call center and a new backup call center were all part of the plan, with the backup center running by December 2015. But the de Blasio administration halted work and called for a review after being told in May that the date had been pushed back to 2018 and at least an additional $100 million would be needed.
The system also had a major glitch in May 2013, when operators had to use pen and paper to relay emergencies to dispatchers because of a system stall at least three different times over two days.
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