In The News › Landrieu revamps New Orleans DBE, contracting procedures

Jun 7, 2010

Source: The Louisiana Weekly

Filed under: Contracting, Orleans Parish

Landrieu revamps New Orleans DBE, contracting procedures

Monday, June 7, 2010
By Christopher Tidmore
Louisiana Weekly

On Thursday, June 4, 2010, Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed Executive Orders that enact sweeping reforms of city contracting procedures. In doing so, the newly inaugurated Chief Executive attempts to weigh transparency reforms long advocated by good government groups like the Bureau of Governmental Research and critics in the African-American community that worry such changes might exclude minority contractors from the bidding process.

At a press conference, the mayor argued that he had struck the right balance. “With these Executive Orders, we are fundamentally changing the way business is done at City Hall and taking a major step forward in restoring the public trust,” said Landrieu. “New Orleans deserves an open and honest government. That’s why I am putting processes in place that will help us spend tax dollars wisely and encourage a more robust local economy.”

For years, he recounted, a myriad of problems have been reported with city contracting, including claims of corruption, patronage, and overspending. Moreover, he pointed out, the city’s program for directing contracting opportunities to disadvantaged businesses enterprises (DBEs) has long been criticized as poorly organized and ineffective.

In an interview with The Louisiana Weekly, Devona Dolliole, City Hall Communications Director, explained, “New Orleans is going to have a model, national-best practice DBE program. From commissioning a disparity study to appointing a Director of Supplier Diversity, our administration is going to have the institutional capabilities to not only include DBEs, but to also make sure that our guidelines are being enforced. We’ll also look to create a surety fund for bonding and will facilitate relationships between banks and financial institutions to provide technical assistance to DBE firms. And we are immediately expanding access to city business by establishing a provisional certification to DBEs currently certified under a number of other certification programs.”

“This was a very inclusive process that included voices from across our city and across the business community,” she continued. “Dr. Charles Teamer, Sr., and Mr. Jay Lapeyre helped lead our effort as co-chairs of the transition Task Force, and we also involved Daniel Davillier of the N.O. Regional Black Chamber of Commerce, the Office of the Inspector General, dozens of additional business leaders, and good-government groups throughout the process. At the end of the day, our group was able to reach a consensus in short order about best practices that could restore the public trust.”

“We have put in place a number of mechanisms that ensure maximum transparency. The OIG [Office of Inspector General] will be involved throughout the professional services contracting process. The selection committees must comply with open-meetings and public-records laws including written evaluations by the committees. Also, bidders must disclose subcontractors throughout the process and must disclose any relationships their firms or subcontractors have with city officials.”

Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux echoed the comments outlining, “The mission of the Office of Inspector General is to prevent and detect fraud as well as promote efficient and effective government. The best way to prevent major fraud is to instill integrity and openness in the contracting process, and this policy is a huge step forward for every citizen of New Orleans. At Mayor Landrieu’s request, the OIG examined practices in other cities and made recommendations about the process and mechanisms to ensure fair, open and honest competition.”

The IG’s involvement in the procurement process was a key aspect of the entire reform package, according to Dolliole, “ensuring unprecedented transparency on contracting matters”. The Chief Procurement Officer will be required to notify the OIG at the commencement of each procurement to ensure that the OIG receives all necessary information to carry out its charter-mandated functions. The OIG will also review the standardized RFP and RFQ templates annually.

At Thursday’s press conference, Landrieu stated, “During the transition, I asked this task force to come to a consensus on a clear path forward to create a more inclusive, business-friendly city government. I am proud that we found common ground and have set the table for enduring, transformational change.”

Highlights of the Executive Orders include: Establishing a Chief Procurement Officer, who is an experienced professional in large-scale public procurement, removing the Mayor from the selection process, Creating a Provisional Certification Program to expand the pool of DBEs that can immediately compete for city business, Commissioning a disparity study to determine the gap that exists between the availability of DBEs and the utilization of such businesses by the city, Requiring on-going disclosure of subcontractors, All documents, including evaluations of selection committee, are public, and Institutionalizing the role of the Inspector General in the contracting process.

At more interest to the African-American community, the first Executive Order significantly expands opportunities for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE). It establishes a Provisional Certification Program for DBEs, which will immediately open the door for hundreds of additional businesses, which are currently certified by selected state and quasi-city agencies, to compete for city business. It also creates an advisory committee to reform and strengthen the city’s DBE program; creates a contract review committee for procurements; commissions a disparity study and explores the creation of a surety fund for the bonding of DBEs.

“The actions taken today by the Mayor indicate that we need to be more effective in building capacity within local small businesses, which are vital to a strong and enduring local economy,” said Charles Teamer, Chairman of the Board of Dryades Savings Bank and the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce-and co-chair of the Transition New Orleans City Contracting and DBE Task Force. “The disparity study will provide hard facts and data to guide efforts to build a more inclusive and effective DBE program. Money is not black or white but green.”

“With these reforms, the procurement process does not end with the award of a contract, but continues with monitoring and accountability,” said Daniel Davillier, chairman of the New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce. “For DBEs, that means when they are promised work by a contractor, Mayor Landrieu and his team will guarantee they get that work or the contractor will be penalized.”

The second Executive Order establishes a central Procurement Office, housed in the Department of Finance and headed by a Chief Procurement Officer (CPO). The Procurement Officer will be a professional with a minimum of five years of experience in large scale procurement and will hold an advanced procurement certification.

“These reforms establish the foundation for open and transparent selection processes, and for the follow-up accountability, to allow all city contractors and suppliers to understand the performance criteria and ensure the government gets the best value when spending taxpayer dollars,” said Jay Lapeyre, President of Laitram, LLC, and co-chair of the Transition New Orleans City Contracting & DBE Task Force. “This also enables the local small and DBE business development critical to a healthy local economy.”

The third Executive Order outlines the competitive selection procedure the CPO will use for the procurement and awarding of professional service contracts, including setting advertising standards and developing standardized Request for Proposals (RFP) and Request for Qualifications (RFQ). It also sets guidelines for the establishment of Selection Committees with subject-matter expertise.

The final Executive Order creates a Director of Supplier diversity to oversee the rebuilding of the DBE program. The Director of Supplier Diversity will develop and implement a model supplier and contractor diversity program that incorporates national best practices. The director will also be mandated to meet regularly with bank leaders, community development financial institutions, and other financial entities to seek resources to support DBEs.

The Landrieu administration has made a string of announcements over the course of its first 32 days that reform city government. From his first days in office, Landrieu started introducing best practices with the establishment of the deputy mayor structure and by re-instituting a five-day work week at City Hall which went into effect on Friday, June 4. The administration also announced that it will improve the delivery of city services by implementing innovative, performance-tracking measures such as CitiStat. Earlier last week, Mayor Landrieu signed his first Executive Order which overhauls current budget processes in order to produce, what the mayor considers, “a more accurate, performance-based, and citizen-driven budget.”

To develop its recommendations, the Transition New Orleans City Contracting & DBE Task Force consulted with experts from around the nation, examined best practices in other cities and shared expertise regarding contracting issues. The Task Force also held a public hearing on the evening of April 14, 2010, to engage the citizens of New Orleans in the process.

Jun 7, 2010

Source: The Louisiana Weekly

Filed under: Contracting, Orleans Parish

Fair Use Notice

This site occasionally reprints copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of issues and to highlight the accomplishments of our affiliates. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is available without profit. For more information go to: US CODE: Title 17,107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.