City Controller John Liu has won a huge victory for New Yorkers by finally shutting down the out-of-control CityTime spigot.
Liu successfully rebuffed pressure from Mayor Bloomberg to sign off on another $130 million, three-year contract extension for defense giant SAIC to complete the computerized timekeeping and payroll system that is already years behind schedule and more than 10 times over budget.
At the same time, Liu has halted the city's use of biometric hand scanners - a sore point with city unions.
Liu and Bloomberg finalized an agreement Tuesday that gives SAIC only until June 30 to complete its work on CityTime. The firm will not receive another penny, however, until all 165,000 city workers originally targeted to use the system are on it.
SAIC took over the project 10 years ago, but after all that time, only 71,000 municipal employees are actually using it. Meanwhile, as the Daily News revealed last year, the system's price tag has skyrocketed from $63 million to nearly $700 million.
If SAIC meets the new June deadline, the company will receive a final payment of $32 million. But if it fails to do so, the city will charge the company $3 million a month until all 165,000 workers have been put on the system.
"New York City taxpayers are sick and tired of being milked by multibillion-dollar corporations for grossly overpriced and overdue projects," Liu said in a prepared statement.
This "signals a new era in city contracting," said Liu's spokeswoman Sharon Lee.
"There have been many problems with building CityTime," Bloomberg conceded in his own statement.
That's like BP chief Tony Hayward saying, "We had a small leak."
Less than a year into his first term as controller, Liu has displayed a willingness to take on Bloomberg in a way that his predecessor, William Thompson, never did.
In the case of CityTime, Liu was able to prevail because both the mayor and the controller jointly administer the Office of Payroll Administration.
He thus achieved something unheard of when it comes to City Hall computer consultants: cost control.
On top of that, he won other reforms that thousands of city workers will no doubt celebrate.
There is, for instance, the contentious issue of New Age biometric hand scanners.
Under the CityTime system, thousands of blue-collar municipal workers are now required to clock in and out each day by sticking their hands in such scanners.
The new agreement makes the practice optional, "so that by June 30 no employee will be required to use hand scanning."
Other provisions require the city to explore competitive bidding of long-term maintenance for the CityTime system and they mandate that at least 50% of the system be serviced by city employees.
Then there is the issue of equal treatment. During the past 10 years, certain agencies were ordered to quickly move to the new timekeeping system, while more powerful agencies, like the Police and Fire departments and City Hall, have delayed their switch.
In a provision of the new agreement bound to bring a smile to every city worker's face, Liu required that the Office of Payroll Administration "will work to implement CityTime at the office of the mayor and the office of the comptroller at the earliest date possible [to] allow all staff to electronically 'clock in.'"
If CityTime is such a great system, then install it in my office and in City Hall, pronto, the new controller says.