A Bronx-based shelter operator has failed to account for millions of dollars in city payments and racked up huge utility tabs while subjecting the city’s homeless population to squalid conditions, an audit from City Controller John Liu’s office found.
Liu called on the city to drop Aguila, which serves more than 1,400 indigent families and operates dozens of shelters in the Bronx and Manhattan. He also urged the city Department of Homeless Services to better oversee its homeless shelter operators.
“In light of the repeated and systematic failures, DHS should discontinue its use of Aguila,” Liu wrote to Mayor Bloomberg Wednesday.
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Liu took the city to task as well. His report charged that the Department of Homeless Services failed to adequately inspect Aguila’s shelters, which enabled the operator to put people up in buildings that were rife with housing violations — some more than a year old, the audit stated.
Liu said Aguila, which is led by Mayor Bloomberg’s former Department of Homeless Services commissioner Robert Hess, also owes the city more than 0,000 in unpaid water and sewer bills.
Some of Aguila’s shelters include the Apollo Hotel, in Harlem, and sites on Boynton, Manor, Morris and Sherman Aves. in the Bronx.
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Liu has been scrutinizing the relationship between the city and Aguila for years. In July, the city took legal action in an effort to reverse Liu’s rejection of two city contracts with Aguila. The lawsuit is ongoing.
Representatives from Aguilareferred comments to the city.A spokeswoman from the Mayor’s OfficeSamantha Levine said the city couldn’t comment on Aguila because of the lawsuit.
In an audit two years ago, Liu petitioned the Department of Homeless Services to recoup more than 0,000 in improper payments that the city made to Aguila, and have the operator account for .1 million in city payments that could not be substantiated, meaning Aguila had billed the city without providing proper documentation.
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But Liu said the city got only 8,412 of that money back, and did not look into more than half of .3 million the Controller’s Office found the city paid Aguila for services that were not stipulated in a written contract.
Despite the litany of irregularities, the city has steadily increased its reliance on the contractor. The Department of Homeless Services paid Aguila million in the 2013 fiscal year — up from .3 million the previous year, the audit showed.
“The escalating costs come as the city’s homeless population has climbed to levels not seen in decades,” Liu wrote. “This band-aid approach to housing the homeless is as costly as it is ineffective.”