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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Procurement as political theatre

Well, political theatre or sport. It doesn't matter. Politics and procurement just doesn't mix well. It's a curse on both houses.

Council’s Contract Oversight: Often a Waste of Time
When it comes to oversight hearings on city contracting, the [Washington] D.C. Council sure knows how to waste time.

Every few months, the council gets roped into and riled up over some relatively low-dollar contract dispute, like the horror of having a Baltimore-based company cutting the city's grass, and spends several hours grandstanding, wandering off topic, and ultimately not resolving anything. It would be funny, except that these sideshows distract from Council's long track record of missing massive fraud and ignoring systemic problems.

The latest brouhaha occurred yesterday. It was a four-hour hearing on whether to disapprove a $12.7 million contract to turn around Ward 8's United Medical Center. Councilmember Vincent Orange is pushing his colleagues to reject the contract because he says the winning bidder—Chicago-based Huron Consulting—did not abide by the letter of the law when it switched out its Certified Business Enterprise partner after submitting its initial bid.

None of the prime contractors who bid on the contract and lost filed a protest with the city's Contract Appeals Board, nor did they bother to testify at yesterday's hearing. But still Orange says Huron's wrongdoing was so egregious that the need for redress transcends the hospital contract. Nothing short of the fate of the city's 1,200 CBE-certified companies, says Orange, is at stake.

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