Michael Owh Moved to Los Angeles as Bungled, Multi-Million Dollar Contract Missed Deadline After Deadline
Eighteen months after a $30.5 million contract was awarded to French technology company Ivalua to custom-build an online procurement system to be used by up to 40 New York City departments, Michael Owh left town.
Ivalua had no prior experience servicing governments in the U.S. and the deadline for the eProcurement platform to be operational was coming up quickly. The system was supposed to allow City Hall agencies to buy goods and services less expensively. But nearly every milestone had been missed.
Since receiving a tip last year, Checks and Balances Project has been looking into questions about the lucrative contract. We’ve already established that City Hall committed taxpayers to spend 340 times more per agency for custom-built software that still doesn’t work compared to off-the-shelf software that the City of Dallas had purchased – that works just fine. Costs for NYC are now approaching $50 million.
Time Is of the Essence
Records obtained by C&BP show that Owh, who was also the then-director of the City of New York Mayor’s Office of Contract Services (MOCS), was aware of the problems. On the July 25, 2016, contract cover letter to Ivalua CEO Daniel Amzallag to proceed, Owh was the first person “cc’ed.” The importance of meeting deadlines was clearly stated on page on page 7 of the contract:
In March 2017, Owh was confident enough that he gave the keynote speech at the second day of Ivalua NOW 2017, the company’s Second Annual Customer Conference.
But less than a year later, things had changed. Owh had gone to law school at St. John’s University in Queens and lived in the greater New York City area for the last 13 years. But in February 2018, the month before the eProcurement platform was scheduled to be operational, he got a job in Los Angeles as that city’s chief procurement officer.
Who Enabled the Boondoggle?
It was good timing on his behalf. Because two years after the contract was signed, not even the design of NYC’s new eProcurement system had been completed. (See: Scope and Solution Overview.)
According to a source close to the contract, Michael Owh appears to have been a central actor in steering the contract to Ivalua. Our interest is uncovering who enabled this taxpayer boondoggle.
New Public Records Request
To learn more, we submitted a new FOIL records request to MOCS Assistant General Counsel and Records Officer Janet Kim last week. We’ve asked for “information about an online procurement solution for NYC government agencies contained in the electronic email boxes, calendars, appointments, tasks and associated attachments” for Owh. You can read the entire document by clicking on the image below:
Do you have information to share? Send a note to C&BP through our confidential tip line. Your tip can be completely anonymous.
Scott Peterson is executive director of Checks and Balances Project, an investigative watchdog holding government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.
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