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Monday, December 19, 2016

Of park benches and benchmarks

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently held an event to make its members aware of the World Bank's Benchmarking Public Procurement (BPP) project, and present an opportunity for its members for doing business with foreign governments:

Benchmarking Public Procurement 2017
Following a G20 decision, the World Bank has evaluated and published the first Global Public Procurement Benchmarking for 180 countries. The conference launched the release of the benchmarking results to the public. The analysis from the report highlights the needs assessment for procurement as a prerequisite for efficient processes. There was a resounding theme of reform and progress towards openness, transparency, competition, value for money and accountability. Transparency was echoed as one of the key pillars to a grounded procurement system and a means to mitigate corruption.
The BPP itself, says,
The core principles of public procurement—transparency, equal treatment, open competition, and sound procedural management—should underlie every transaction that takes place when the government purchases goods or services from a private supplier. Transparency is essential at every stage of the process; a legal procurement system that ensures transparency creates an enabling environment for competition. By promoting the goals of transparency and competition, governments can make sure that the allocation of public resources and funds will be optimized by contracting with the most appropriate bidder for the tender and procuring the best quality of goods, works, and services at the best price.

An effective means of ensuring value for money in the award of contract is by allowing all qualified suppliers to bid for public contracts. The competitive tendering method will provide a range of contractors with variety of goods, works and services, enabling an organization to select the best available option, all things being equal. Conversely, ineffective and nontransparent public procurement rules can result in the public purchase of goods and services at inflated prices and can encourage rent-seeking by private companies.
With the emphasis on competition as well as transparency, it bears repeating that governments tend to like to hide procurement acts through third parties, confidentiality agreements, subcontractors, FOIA holes, and other rabbit holes.

One such suspicious rabbit hole is the one mentioned in this following article, which you should read at the link.

Commentary: Philly overdue for an overhaul of its procurement system By Maria D. Quiñones Sánchez, Councilwoman representing the Seventh District.
'Rebuild" - Mayor Kenney's $700 million initiative to make improvements in parks, playgrounds, libraries, and rec centers - is coming soon to neighborhoods around Philadelphia. As the city works to identify priority projects and creates a new bureaucracy to administer these investments, we must take advantage of this opportunity to finally attack the problem of much-needed procurement reform in Philadelphia.

Currently, the administration is considering contracting with one non-profit partner to administer Rebuild, instead of keeping the projects within our existing capital projects system. While nonprofit partners have a vital role to play, it is a mistake to outsource this initiative to just one entity.

The city spends a lot of money, and we're looking to spend more. In addition to the $700 million Rebuild, we have a $9.7 billion five-year capital plan; multibillion-dollar infrastructure investments planned for the airport and Water Department; and more than $1 billion is spent annually on goods and services.

The way we spend those dollars can have a tremendous impact in our neighborhoods, our business community, and our job market. Unfortunately, right now the rules that govern how we spend that money do not support our shared goals of efficiency, diversity, and inclusion.

Instead of using our investments to build communities, we practice business as usual and maintain the status quo. The vast majority of the work goes to the few big, savvy contractors who can navigate the process, and small businesses are largely shut out. We need to make major changes to bring fairness and clarity to this process. Here's how:

Prioritize project management: The groundbreaking is only the beginning - after the ceremonial shovels are put away, neighbors are too often left with a project that drags on, over budget, and months or years past deadline. This is why we have a years-long capital projects backlog now. To change this, we should institute project management requirements to hold contractors accountable to the city and to the community. This is where our private and nonprofit sector partners can bring their expertise to ensure compliance and accountability in these projects.

Welcome more small businesses as city contractors: Small businesses do exceptional work in every city neighborhood every single day. If we create supports to bring them into this process, they can compete with the big guys, creating jobs and wealth in their communities. We can be more welcoming to small contractors by debundling oversized contracts into manageable smaller ones, and developing insurance, bonding, and financing umbrellas to help them meet the cash-flow and back-office demands of participating in the city procurement process.

Develop diversity in the building trades: City Council's 2015 Annual Disparity Study showed us that the growth in certified minority- and women-owned contractors has not been matched by their participation on city worksites. The diverse workforce is growing, but it isn't being hired. Meanwhile, we continue to exempt contractors from our own diverse workforce requirements, accepting their excuses that there aren't people of color and women who are able to do these jobs.

Comprehensive reform of our procurement system is an ambitious undertaking, but the time is now for bold action. We are fortunate to have in Mayor Kenney a leader with the political will - and a very willing partner in Council - to finally get this done. The voters have entrusted us to manage our government and use resources to help spur economic growth and create jobs. Investing in public works as job-creation strategy has a proud history in our country and, if we do this right, Rebuild and our capital projects could be a transformative jobs program for Philadelphia.
And then there's this: State fiscal chief seeks more economic development oversight
New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the ongoing bribery and bid-rigging scandal roiling Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration shows more scrutiny is needed when it comes to state economic development programs. DiNapoli, a Democrat, proposed several changes Tuesday that would subject more state contracts to independent review and restore his office's oversight over state universities.

He also wants to prohibit state agencies from creating non-profit entities that allow them to funnel public dollars to projects while circumventing contracting and reporting rules.
Councilwoman Sanchez may want a word with NY Comptroller DiNapoli.

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