THE FUNDS NOT OVER YET

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In the department of contracts, scandals and cronyism, it looks like the story’s over. Wednesday, the Procurement Policy Board backed off of its threat to strip the city comptroller of much of his power over contracting. Thursday, a state judge said the comptroller was absolutely right to refuse the $104 million Maximus welfare-to-work contracts. Friday, Maximus’ stock dropped by 6.5 percent. The fat lady, apparently, has sung.

Just wait.

A casual survey reveals that every major new social services contract proposed by the Giuliani administration in the last five months has been issued through negotiated acquisition, the same contracting process that the comptroller balked at and the judge criticized.

Most of these new contracts have yet to make it very far through the approval process, and all are subject to scrutiny. Each must first have a public hearing, and then get sent to the comptroller’s office for inspection and approval.

For example, waiting in the wings are $18 million worth of think-tank “consulting” contracts, mostly slated for buddies of the welfare commissioner and the mayor.

Then there’s the mammoth $180 million of cash going to the Doe Fund to build a homeless shelter.

Also in the pipeline are negotiated acquisition proposals for a rental assistance program for homeless families, a distance learning program for teen mothers and a job training program for homeless adults.

“The negotiated acquisition process has been used previously with no problems, but the track record of this administration with social services contracts suggests it’s not an appropriate method,” said Glenn Pasanen of the budget watchdog group City Project. “We’d be wary of any contracts advertised with that process.”