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Audit: ORDA needs to share more data

The Lake Placid Olympic Center is the headquarters of the New York State Olympic Regional development Authority. (Enterprise photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — For more than seven years, the state Olympic Regional Development Authority hasn’t complied with an executive order requiring that it publish data on the state’s Open Data website, an audit by the state comptroller’s office found.

The comptroller’s office audited ORDA last year and released its findings last month. Auditors found that even though an executive order was signed in 2013 requiring ORDA to submit data for publication to the state’s Office of Information Technology Services, or ITS, it never has.

“ORDA did not begin to take steps to meet the requirements of (the executive order) until after we began our audit,” the audit report reads. “Prior to our audit, ORDA did not have any data items published to Open Data. In addition, it did not designate a Data Coordinator, complete a comprehensive catalogue of publishable data, submit a master schedule of publishable datasets to ITS, or incorporate Open Data into its ongoing core business planning and strategies. However, since then, ORDA has taken steps to comply with (the executive order) including appointing a Data Coordinator, contacting ITS for guidance, creating a data catalogue and developing policies related to (the executive order).”

In response to the audit, ORDA CEO Michael Pratt — who was promoted to the position in 2017 — wrote in a letter to the comptroller’s office that ORDA had staff turnover at the time the order was issued and there was a “lack of communication” between ITS and ORDA.

“ORDA lacked the requisite knowledge, oversight and guidance to ensure that the necessary steps were taken to comply with the order,” Pratt wrote.

Asked what kind of data ORDA should be submitting, both the comptroller’s office and ORDA did not immediately respond on Tuesday.

In its report, the comptroller’s office Division of State Government Accountability has asked ORDA to submit to ITS, and make public, a complete catalog of data and a schedule for publishing data. The division also asked ORDA to develop a system to come into compliance with the executive order.

Since the comptroller’s office sent ORDA its preliminary audit findings last year, the authority has given its director of finance, Peggy Evatt, the responsibility of being its “data coordinator,” according to Pratt. ORDA has adopted an open data policy and has been working toward having its complete catalog of data created. ORDA planned to submit its initial datasets to ITS in January. As of Tuesday, there appeared to be no ORDA datasets on the state’s Open Data website yet.

“From my point of view, our response has been very proactive,” Pratt said at a meeting of ORDA’s Audit Committee on Monday. “We have a plan moving forward to put this information on the state website. Some of the information has been on our website, but some of it has not. Having clear definitions and policies will be beneficial moving forward.

“We have taken on these additional duties and responsibilities with existing staff,” he added. “Certainly, we don’t have people sitting around with their hands up saying, ‘What else do you want me to do?’ We’re stretched pretty thin. We reacted with the seriousness this deserved.”

The state’s Open Data website was created to give watchdog groups, researchers and the general public access to all kinds of information from state agencies and authorities. The site shows everything from past winning lottery numbers to the number of trout the state Department of Environmental Conservation has released for anglers to catch, or the number of horses that have died or been injured at state race tracks. The insight into state government operations that can be gleaned from the website runs the gamut, but the goal, according to the audit report, is to make data publicly available because it can “reduce costs, improve government efficiency, and inspire collaboration with the private sector.”

The last time ORDA was audited by the comptroller’s office was in 2014. At that time, the office gave the authority a slap on the wrist for relying on loans and outside contributions from other state agencies to cover cash shortages. Between April 2010 and March 2013, ORDA’s losses totaled $4.2 million in cash, or $45 million including depreciation, accounts receivable and post-employment benefits due to its employees. ORDA also relied on a line of credit to cover its basic operating costs, including payroll, the audit found.

ORDA was created in 1981 — following the 1980 Olympic Winter Games — to manage and operate Lake Placid’s Olympic facilities. The state-owned Gore Mountain and Belleayre ski centers were brought under ORDA management in 1984 and 2011, respectively.

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