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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Foreseeability and time to plan before acting vitiates emergency procurement

Homelessness, like poverty, is always with us. It is a perennial issue of municipal governance and a cold, hard reality. There are social service agencies who are expected to deal with social issues. Such issues are not emergencies in and of themselves, even when they turn from invisible to visible. 

Turning a blind eye to a known problem is simply a failure to attend to a responsibility; suddenly having eyes wide open is incentive to deal with the problem, but it's not an emergency. It's something you chose, or "prioritized", to do nothing about, and now you feel compelled by headlines to do something about it.  

Urgency is not emergency when it comes to playing fast and loose with public money by doing an end around normal prudent procurement procedures. 

Tacoma considers declaring homeless state of emergency
The Tacoma City mayor proposed declaring a state of emergency on homelessness in the city.

“It is something that is happening in every single neighborhood, and the reality of homeless is, it’s not a new issue” said Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, "but it becomes a new issue when it becomes visible."

“This is going to require us to take an approach we haven’t taken before," said Strickland. “We want to form a cross function team to explore what it takes to declare an emergency. We may have the ability to waive procurement rules.”
Tacoma’s homelessness crisis needs an emergency solution, mayor says
The homelessness issue in Tacoma, the county and the region is well-documented. It’s rare a few days go by lately that homelessness goes without mention in local media.

“Our goal here is to make sure that no one who’s in Tacoma has to sleep on a street, in a park, beneath an overpass or outside, and the message we want to send is help is available,” Strickland said Tuesday.

“Now we have to figure out what that means, because the questions we have to answer for folks if we’re clearing out encampments is where do I go then? We have to have an answer to where do I go and we don’t have that answer right now, and we know it’s a very complicated, complex problem.”

While that means getting homeless people access to medical care, food, housing services and emergency shelter, the mayor said, it also means the city needs to enforce against illegal activities that are taking place, such as blatant and public drug use. Pauli said the city wants to find an approach that will also mitigate the impacts of homelessness on residents and neighbors.

The city will have to explore some potential new ways to address homelessness, she said, and short-term solutions could range from tent cities, to adding more affordable housing, and creating emergency shelters. Declaring an emergency would allow the city to fast track some of its processes in getting those plans into place, Strickland said.
The city obviously has seen this issue growing, and has had plenty of time to plan for a solution. And they are still perplexed as to what the solution will be. They hope to avoid planning by cutting spending corners while they are still trying to understand the problem: "we don’t have that answer right now, and we know it’s a very complicated, complex problem."  

Good luck with that.  Hurry up and do something is a political response, not a responsible management response.

Urgency is not an emergency when it comes to procurement. Procurement starts with identifying a particular need, and planning to acquire and mobilize a solution to address the need. Failure to plan and act in a timely manner is never an excuse to cut corners with government spending. 

Emergency procurement trades off good governance procedures for immediate action in the face of genuine disasters.  Graft, waste and excessive costs are the typical result of emergency procurements even when the emergency is genuine (think Hurricane Katrina), and should be avoided unless uniquely necessary.

Guam law allows emergency procurement, but it is defined and conditions are put on it. Not every so-called "emergency" qualifies for the expedited emergency procurement process. The definition is particularly pertinent to this case study:
Emergency means a condition posing an imminent threat to public health, welfare, or safety which could not have been foreseen through the use of reasonable and prudent management procedures, and which cannot be addressed by other procurement methods of source selection. (5 Guam Code Annotated § 5030(x))

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE:  Friday, May 5, from Guam

The Pacific Daily News has a similar tale to tell in an article and its editorial. But, there seem to be more than a few in the government and media who "get it". 

In the face of student protests and other bad publicity, while one member of the Board of Education wants the Governor to issue an emergency declaration to fix a long-standing maintenance problem at a local high school, the PDN editorial board stands calmly and responsibly in favor of doing "the procurement process correctly.... That's where lawmakers and the administration need to focus their efforts." 

At last, there are responsible adults engaging in the problem solving.

Emergency declaration for Sanchez High eyed to get $1M for 2-year plan
The facilities at Simon Sanchez High School are in such poor condition the school will need an extra $1 million during the next couple of years to make necessary repairs and to ensure there are enough classrooms for students, according to education officials.

Maria Gutierrez, vice chairwoman of the Guam Education Board, said asking the governor for an emergency declaration is among the options to avoid double sessions at Simon Sanchez next school year. Double sessions mean students would attend school in two shifts.

Sen. Joe San Agustin, chairman of the legislative committee on education, asked for a two-year interim plan for Sanchez High, including funding requirements. The education board said it will be presenting the plan to San Agustin shortly. Ada said he hopes senators will introduce separate legislation to help repair the school.

On Monday, the public auditor is scheduled to hold a hearing on Core Tech’s procurement appeal of the request for proposals to rebuild the campus.
OUR VIEW: Speed up construction of new Simon Sanchez High
The school has been in a state of disrepair for years. It was shut down temporarily in 2013 because of safety issues. Just two years later, there were health and safety violations that should have closed it again, but Public Health said it would work with the school system to keep it open. The following year, some of the needed improvements still weren’t made.

There’s $100 million set aside to rebuild Sanchez High, and to make repairs at other public schools. But procurement protests and problems have repeatedly stalled the project.

Now senators want a two-year plan from the Guam Department of Education that addresses structural problems at the school. Sen. Joe San Agustin said the Legislature will help identify funding sources for repairs, but needs cost estimates.

“We would want DOE to give us an estimate of how much they would need for temporary repairs so that students and teachers can still use Simon Sanchez safely, while procurement is still ongoing,” he said.

But the money for a new Sanchez High is there. What’s needed is for GovGuam to do the procurement process correctly, so there are no further protests and the project can proceed. That’s where lawmakers and the administration need to focus their efforts.

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