In The News › BGR calls for changes in contracting

Mar 18, 2010

Source: The Times-Picyaune

Filed under: Contracting, Orleans Parish

BGR calls for changes in contracting

Many citizens in N.O. ‘have lost faith,’ it says

Thursday, March 18, 2010
By Bruce Eggler
The Times-Picayune

Its previous calls for eliminating politics from the way New Orleans awards contracts for professional services seemed to fall on mostly deaf ears, but the Bureau of Governmental Research is not giving up.

The organization issued another report Wednesday outlining how it thinks both the executive branch and the City Council should revise their procedures for awarding contracts for legal, architectural, engineering, management and other services not covered by the state’s public bid law.

The organization’s latest proposals differ from its earlier recommendations because of the establishment of the city inspector general’s office, which the BGR is counting on to play a significant role in monitoring how contracts are awarded and administered.

After ticking off a list of contracts issued under Mayors Marc Morial and Ray Nagin that have drawn criticism for their high cost or the questionable qualifications of the people who received them, the BGR report, “Contracting with Confidence,” says:

“Many citizens of New Orleans have lost faith in the government’s ability to procure services that are cost-effective and serve the public interest. To regain the public trust, the city must establish a sound and scrupulous process for evaluating and awarding professional services contracts.”

In the past, the BGR called for creating committees of professional experts from outside government to evaluate proposals and select contractors. Although it knew such a procedure would be “difficult to execute,” the bureau said, the method “appeared to offer the best chance for fixing an opaque, badly broken process controlled solely by the mayor and his appointees.”

Now, with the inspector general in place, the bureau is recommending keeping the selection process inside city government, but under the control of civil service bureaucrats, not political appointees, and allowing the mayor or the City Council no leeway in choosing from among several applicants.

Unlike in the past, the mayor or council would have only two options: to accept or reject the single applicant recommended by a committee of bureaucrats after a standardized review and ranking process conducted in public and monitored by the inspector general’s office. The committee would be led by a newly created chief procurement officer who meets educational and professional certification standards.

If the mayor rejects the choice, he or she must “justify” the rejection in writing.

BGR’s model attempts to reduce the risk of political interference by providing sunshine and establishing procedures that promote a level playing field,” with the inspector general counted on to “call attention to any unethical or wasteful practices,” the report says.

The same model should apply to all boards and commissions, such as the New Orleans Aviation Board and the Sewerage & Water Board, the report says.

Although proposals for contracting reform sometimes have been attacked as attempts to limit the amount of work going to minority-owned firms, the BGR report says its proposals “would not modify city policies that encourage contracting with local and disadvantaged businesses.”

The proposed changes would not require amending the City Charter, but “incorporating the model in a charter amendment would provide a higher level of protection for the reforms,” the report says.
The BGR report can be found at its Web site,

At a news conference Wednesday, Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu said he is “really interested in accountability and transparency” in contracting but also in “making sure we have a very strong DBE (disadvantaged business enterprise) program” and in getting “contracts done and shovels in the ground as quickly as possible.”

Landrieu said he has discussed the issue of contracts with Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux and asked for a report on “best practices” used in other cities. After getting a preliminary report this week, Landrieu said, he is expecting “an updated analysis in the next week to 10 days.”

He named businessman Jay Lapeyre and banker Charles Teamer as co-chairmen of a transition task force on city contracting.

Mar 18, 2010

Source: The Times-Picyaune

Filed under: Contracting, Orleans Parish

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