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I.G. report: Federal law may have been violated in crime camera contract process

The inspector general's report takes serious aim at what it sees as a long list of problems with the mayor's Office of Technology.

NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans interim inspector general says Mayor Ray Nagin's Office of Technology may be guilty of some serious wrong doing.

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Odom says he's given his findings to the US Attorney's Office, in what he says could result in a possible criminal investigation surrounding the city's crime-camera program.

In a report released Tuesday, Leonard Odom, the interim inspector general, detailed what his office discovered through a seven-month review of the much maligned New Orleans crime-camera program.

Within the 50 page report, the Inspector General's office takes serious aim at what it sees as a long list of problems with the Mayor's Office of Technology, the city agency in charge of administering and overseeing the city's crime-camera program.

Odom's scathing report, a culmination of seven months of review, alleges to have found "potential violations of federal law."

According to the report, the crime-camera system was estimated by the Nagin administration to cost $2.6 million for 240 cameras. But the report says that the actual cost to the city was $6.6 million.

The Inspector General report says the crime-camera program was undertaken without a realistic budget or funding plan, and did not exercise effective contract oversight.

According to the Odom, the program started in 2003 with the mayor's announcement that he planned to install 1,000 cameras.

When the fourth contractor for the project declared the project complete last July, 205 cameras were said to be working. An inspection by the Inspector General's office two months later found that only 114 were up and running.The city blamed Hurricane Gustav for much of the damage.

The report says many of the cameras were installed in a makeshift manner and would not meet the standards for a traditional public works project.

"I am so incredibly pleased with the depth of the report," said Stacy Head, New Orleans councilwoman. "We have a huge contract management problem in this city, we have overspent on our crime camera operations, we need to change the processes within city hall."

Head has long voiced outrage over the city's management of the crime camera program, overseen by the Mayor's Office of Technology.

"Frankly, this is confirmation of the things I've suspected for a very long time," said Head.

The report accuses the IT department of lacking the necessary expertise, failing to observe fundamental rules for accountability and transparency, and failing to establish a realistic budget for the project.

According to the report, tax payers have paid about $4 million over budget for the city's 240 crime cameras-- about 50 of which still aren't working according to a presentation by the Nagin Administration during a Public Works Committee Hearing on Tuesday.

The Mayor's Office doesn't seem to be disputing the reports findings.

"What I can tell you is that in that thumbing though, it is very much parallel to what was in the forensic report that we initiated," said Brenda Hatfield, chief administrative officer for the city of New Orleans.

Hatfield says the Nagin administration hired two private firms to conduct their own review of the crime camera program.The city released the forensic audit on Tuesday, several hours after the IG's Office released its version. Hatfield, however, says the Nagin Administration's report was completed last week and says the city has already begun to implement changes based on the recommendations outlined in the report.

"We've cut down on the number of contractors we have," said Hatfield."We've brought in more of our own city employees hired, we have actually frozen any of the contracts where there any questions that were brought up in the forensic audit."

The report contracted by the mayor's office also recommends that Anthony Jones, the city's former IT Director be stripped of his contracting responsibilities. Jones resigned his post back in July only to take on a lower management position within the department.

The resignation came amid allegations Jones falsified his city job application and resume. In October, the city's latest Interim IT Director Harrison Boyd told Eyewitness News Jones was still playing an integral role in the daily operations of the Office of Technology.

Today Hatfield told reporters, "[Jones] has nothing to do any longer with crime cameras or with the contracts."

Boyd has been praised by City Council members in the five months he's been on the job and the Office of the Inspector General says Boyd has taken steps to address some of the crime camera problems.

The report, however, says "more changes are needed to guard against performance failures and cost overruns in future projects."& #160;The report concludes with the following recommendations for change:

1. The City should reduce its excessive reliance on contractors for information technology services.

2. The City should procure all services using a competitive process based on a clearly defined scope of work and a maximum contract cost.

3. The City should adopt contract terms and contract oversight procedures that hold contractors accountable for the quality of their work.

4. The City should correct weaknesses in its fiscal oversight procedures that threaten the integrity of its budget.

5. The City should develop a plan and budget before undertaking any future project.

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