Governor Kathy Hochul’s (D-NY) administration paid double the cost for COVID tests in a $637 million deal to a major donor’s company, according to a new report.
Reinvent Albany released the report on Friday that revealed the concerning deal.
“Digital Gadgets’ tests cost $12.25 each compared to $5 each for the first 5 million tests the state bought from iHealth ($5 each),” the report observed.
“The second most expensive vendor was Spectrum Medical, whose tests cost $7.80 each. The state ultimately paid out 5 times more to Digital Gadgets than it did to any competitors, as this damning graph shows,” it added.
The founder and CEO of Digital Gadgets, Charlie Tebele, along with his family members, reportedly donated nearly $300,000 to Hochul’s campaign, the Times Union reported, including $70,000 last winter ahead of Hochul signing the COVID test deal.
The higher price was despite the state purchasing 52 million tests in bulk, paying more than the average retail store cost per test.
In July, Hochul claimed she was unaware that the company’s CEO had supported her campaign.
MORE: A senior fellow at the Empire Center for Public Policy reviewed records obtained by the Times Union and was struck by the significantly higher price paid to Digital Gadgets, resulting in hundreds of millions in additional spending.
— Times Union (@timesunion) September 8, 2022
State Republican Party Chair Nick Langworthy said at the time that he planned to file a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the issue.
“I’m calling on Governor Hochul and the department of health to turn over all of their communications with the Tebele family and Digital Gadgets,” Langworthy said, according to WAMC. “New Yorkers need to know who our government spoke to and when they spoke to them, and what was discussed.”
Republican Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay also addressed the concerning report on Friday in a letter to the New York State Assembly.
“The Minority members of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee are urging you to call an immediate hearing to conduct a full review of what the state has spent during the disaster emergency,” he wrote.
“The governor’s ongoing emergency declarations have allowed her to avoid proper spending oversight. In light of the recent Times Union report, many questions need to be answered. It has never been clearer that we need a full accounting of the state’s COVID-related expenditures and oversight authority must be restored to the appropriate agencies,” he added. Nine other state Republican Ways and Means Committee members joined in his letter.
New York Assemblyman Ed Ra also released a statement expressing his concern regarding the situation.
“The sheer volume of the purchase multiplied by the inflated price has cost New Yorkers hundreds of millions in unnecessary spending. This is an enormous sum, and any potential impropriety surrounding the deal must be immediately addressed,” Ra, the Republican Conference’s ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee, said. “Our call for a hearing comes in the name of basic fiscal responsibility, which at this time appears to have disappeared from the executive’s office.”
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