In The News › Jefferson Parish Council should adopt price mandate in contracting, advocates say

Jefferson Parish Council should adopt price mandate in contracting, advocates say

By Manuel Torres, | The Times-Picayune.
April 19, 2013

A Jefferson Parish civic group seeking changes in public contracting procedures wants theParish Council to approve a non-controversial provision of the proposal now, while officialswork out concerns about other parts of the ordinance.

The council has deferred until September a vote on proposals to curb its discretion in selecting vendors for so-called Request for Proposals, a process used to hire vendors for some specific tasks. The delay came as the New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce raised concerns about the law’s effects on small and minority-owned firms.

But Citizens for Good Government said some parts of the ordinance have not raised concerns, and they are asking the council to pass one of those non-controversial provisions: a mandate that price be a required criteria in scoring vendors’ offers. Most council members and Parish President John Young have said in recent months that they support the price mandate in the evaluation process.

“There appears to be no reason why this reform could not be implemented now,” said Margie Seemann, vice-chair of the civic group. “Why not do this now?”

Council Chairman Chris Roberts, who drafted the contracting ordinance, said Friday that he has no problem passing the price provision now. The proposal would make price count for 20 percent of a firm’s score in parish rankings.

But Roberts called the proposed price mandate “a moot point,” saying the council already considers price when awarding contracts – even though it’s not legally required to do so.

“Price has always weighed into the final decision and I don’t recall any contract having been awarded without that consideration,” Roberts said.

Councilman Mark Spears, who requested the delay on the contracting ordinance last month, also said price “is already a consideration.” Spears did not say whether he supports voting on the price provision now or waiting until the entire ordinance is considered.

A May 2012 report by the non-profit watchdog Bureau of Governmental Research said price should be a required criterion in parish contracting. The report said that by making price optional, “the council can claim that price is either critically or minimally important in a certain situation in order to steer a contract to a favored vendor.”

Price was a required part of the evaluation process for RFPs until the council voted to remove it in 2010. The Young administration last fall backed BGR’s recommendation to restore the price mandate, and most council members said they supported the proposal.

Roberts included the provision in an ordinance he drafted to also require that council members hire companies ranked among the top three or top five by staff in technical evaluations. That latter provision raised the concerns about minority contracting, and prompted the ordinance’s delay.

Even though council members have delayed consideration for five months, Roberts and Spears have said that addressing the business’ concerns won’t take that long. But it remains unclear when the council will vote on the entire ordinance.
Seemann said the price provision should be put to a vote now.

“There’s no downside to considering price,” she said.

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