In The News › Report: Jeff. Parish council’s contract selection process “uniquely vulnerable to abuse”

May 10, 2012

Source: WWL-TV

Filed under: Contracting, Ethics, Governance, Jefferson Parish

Report: Jeff. Parish council’s contract selection process “uniquely vulnerable to abuse”

May 10, 2012
By Dennis Woltering
WWL-TV

NEW ORLEANS — The Bureau of Governmental Research is calling for significant reforms in the Jefferson Parish government contracting process, calling the process “uniquely vulnerable to abuse,” in a report released Thursday.

BGR said its examination found Jefferson Parish’s approach to service contracting to be highly irregular and vulnerable to abuse. The civic group said the fact that the parish council chooses contractors instead of the executive branch is an abnormal approach.
But the bigger problem, BGR said, is that the council can ignore the recommended choices of evaluation committees and choose anyone who is deemed qualified.

“The Parish Council is free to ignore the work and recommendations of evaluation committees and make its own selections,” wrote the BGR in its report. “Making matters worse, the council regularly defers to the council member in whose district the contracted service will be performed.”

“You open the door for patronage and you open the door for poor value when you have a system like that,” said Janet Howard, BGR president and chief executive officer, in an interview with Eyewitness News.

Howard said everyone will deny that there’s any influence from political contributions, but she said you have to take into account the risk of that happening.

The group recommends that the council accept recommendations of committees that evaluate prospective contractors.

Eyewitness News contacted all 7 parish councilmembers for comment.

Council At-Large Chris Roberts sent this statement:

“The BGR has some valid points but contains inaccuracies that will be addressed to them in writing. Transferring authority of 7 to 1 person that has proven to be a prolific campaign fundraiser is by no means the answer.”

District 4 councilmember Ben Zahn said he had just received the report and had not had ample time to review it. But Zahn did say he questions the wisdom of, as BGR suggests, consolidating power from 7 individual councilmembers to one chief executive, the parish president.

“While I appreciate the BGR’s effort, I feel that it may be premature, given the fact that Jefferson Parish’s Inspector General’s Office has not had an opportunity to impact these same concerns,” Zahn said in a statement.

“I think that President Young has brought already brought significant transparency to our government, and the voters have obviously chosen to allow the Inspector General to speak on their behalf as well,” said Zahn, who took office in January.

May 10, 2012

Source: WWL-TV

Filed under: Contracting, Ethics, Governance, Jefferson Parish

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