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GovBytes: NY emergency call center: Consolidated and over-budget

Consolidation of services and streamlined systems are a good thing, and usually cut costs. But what if the project costs billions? New York City has consolidated its emergency call-taking system, a project that began in 2004, and was implemented this month, 7 years behind schedule. It was also $1 billion over-budget. Contract managers for the project allegedly took kickbacks and overbilled the project, leading to a $500 million dollar settlement to avoid a criminal complaint from the U.S. attorney.

The consolidation has greatly improved call-taking capacity, as New York receives 40x the average volume of calls and can now handle 50,000 calls an hour.

Is improving services worth bloated costs during a time of budget cuts and fiscal uncertainty?

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Robert Singleton

I think it’s largely contextual. Had they known the project was going to be soo poorly implemented then they might not have made the investment. In this situation I do not think it was the fault of the agency but rather the contracted firm. It’s too bad that they had to pay the horrible price for bad work but sometimes that is the way things work, especially in the public sector. From another perspective, who doesn’t want better services? Had the project been completed on time and within budget then I think the question answers itself.