The New York Power Authority on Monday announced a set of procedures designed to reduce costs that agency officials attribute to "competitive pressures in the electric utility industry."
The moves include ending the use of leased cars by senior executives at the authority, banning funding for events that are not "specifically related to the Power Authority's business," strengthening the agency's conflict of interest policy, and changing how the agency selects bond underwriters and bond counsel.
In recent years, the financially troubled authority has been plagued by shutdowns of its nuclear facilities and cited for mismanagement. Agency officials have attributed the authority's financial woes to competitive pressures in the utility industry.
"These measures will help us achieve savings that can be passed on to our customers," said Richard Flynn, the authority's chairman, in a press release.
Flynn said the changes are in response to Gov. Mario M. Cuomo's recent executive order calling for greater accountability from all the state's public authorities.
But the moves also follow a series of public reports in New York Newsday documenting what public policy groups and state government officials said were questionable actions by the authority under Flynn's leadership.
Actions sparking concern among watchdog groups included a $3,000 donation by the authority to the American Irish Historical Society and its procurement practices.
Specifically, the authority said in a press release it will adopt a formal process of choosing firms to sell its debt modeled after the process it used to select firms for its August refunding.
For all new bond deals, the agency's financial staff and outside financial adviser will rank firms competing for slots on the authority's bond underwriting team and evaluate each firm's response to a request for qualifications.
The process received scrutiny under a state budget division examination of the authority, said Stephen Shoenholz, a spokesman for the power authority. Shoenholz said that the budget division approved of the process as part of its review of authorities throughout the state, but said that the agency's trustees should formally approve the measures.
Shoenholz said the selection process is a reaction to investigations of underwriter selections in New Jersey and New York City. Under the process, "commissions and expenses proposed by underwriters will be a strong factor in the selection process," the authority said in a press release announcing the moves.
In addition, the authority said it will conduct a competitive search to select a bond counsel by the end of 1993. The bond counsel will serve for up to five years.
The authority also said that it will use "competitive process" to select minority-owned bond counsel firms for "specific bond issues."
In another change, the authority will enact a stronger conflict of interest policy. Previously, authority officials could receive gifts unless the gift was "reasonably inferred" to influence an employee of the agency.