In The News › Non-profit group claims inefficiency and waste at City Hall

Nov 9, 2010

Source: Fox 8

Filed under: Contracting, Orleans Parish

Non-profit group claims inefficiency and waste at City Hall

Tuesday, November 9, 2010
By Kim Holden
Fox 8

More allegations of inefficiency and waste at City Hall under the Nagin Administration.

It’s all detailed in a scathing report by the Bureau of Governmental Research, which says in a city facing serious financial problems, there’s no place for waste in government.

“Every dollar we waste on a contract where the project doesn’t accomplish what it was supposed to, it’s money down the tube.” Says Executive Director Janet Howard.

And there’s been a lot of that, according to the BGR, from crime cameras, to sanitation, to the city’s failed 3-1-1 call center.

Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin agrees and says that’s why the new administration under Mayor Mitch Landrieu has already implemented changes.

Kopplin says, “We’ve already made a lot of progress, cut millions of dollars in contracts, dozens of contracts, but more importantly, it’s the contracts we chose not to enter into because we’re tightening the belt, trying to save money,” says Kopplin.

The BGR went through more than 800 contracts from 2009. The non-profit group says it also found the contracting process under the Nagin Administration shortchanged citizens and didn’t offer a level playing field for want-to-be city vendors.

In many cases, the city chose to extend contracts already in place instead of putting them out to bid.

Howard says, “You lose out because you aren’t looking at the field to see who can give you the best service and you also aren’t seeing if someone can give the same service at same quality at lower price,” says Howard.

BGR finds many contracts were mis-classified as a way to get around a competitive bid process.

The report also sheds light on a city website few actually know about but cost tax payers thousands. It was supposed to feature information on the recovery effort for the former Office of Recovery and Development, but the site failed to gain momentum.

“The city paid the firm approximately $88,000,” BGR writes. “But now, only two years after the contract took effect, the website is not publicly accessible.”

If you try to log on today, you’re automatically redirected to the city’s homepage. And what BGR refers to as the “IT Debacle,” also extends to the much criticized crime camera program.

The watchdog group says in September of 2009, the Nagin administration paid a contractor $400,000 to repair the city’s network of crime cameras. Yet, according to BGR, the work never improved the reliability of the system.

Just last month, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the city was nixing the entire program. Since its inception, the crime camera system cost taxpayers more than $6 million, but only netted less than 10 convictions.

The report accuses the Nagin administration of avoiding the public bidding of contracts, saying the city, instead, often handed the work directly to certain companies.

According to the City Charter, a contract must be awarded to the “lowest responsible bidder,” unless the contract is considered a ‘professional service.’

Citing the Home Rule Charter of New Orleans, BGR outlines ‘professional services’ as jobs dealing with “law, architecture and accounting, and occupations requiring a high level of training and proficiency, such as information technology.”

The report also questions the way the city handed out community development block grants under the Nagin Administration… specifically 3 and a half million dollars that went toward affordable housing projects. The report questions if that money could have been used to address blight or drainage issues in the city.

The new leadership at City Hall has different plans for the next round of CDBG funding. “What you saw in the mayor’s 2011 budget is the first time ever we’re taking our regular CDBG money for the city and putting it into the resurfacing of roads,” says Deputy Mayor Kopplin.

Ten miles of neighborhood streets plagued with potholes will be resurfaced with CDBG money next year. Kopplin says the city’s putting its money where its mouth is by eliminating the huge recovery management contract with the company. It’s scaling back other contracts. The city has also shut down the Xerox copy center at City hall to save $400,000 a year. Kopplin says when it comes to transparency and contracting, things have changed.

“It’s not who you know, but what you can do and the value of the product you’re bringing to the table,” says Kopplin.

The city has also hired a chief procurement officer to oversee the awarding of contracts. BGR’s findings is titled Inside Outsourcing: A Year in the Life of City Contracting.

Nov 9, 2010

Source: Fox 8

Filed under: Contracting, Orleans Parish

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