Sunday, June 12, 2016

“Contracting For Services In State And Local Government Agencies”

Imagine a state agency wants to hire a private company to clean up a Lake Oroville beach area. How should that agency determine which company will provide the best deal for taxpayers? Cost is key, but “cheap” is not a synonym for “a job well done.”

Finding the best company to perform a service on the public’s dime is the focus of “Contracting For Services In State And Local Government Agencies” ($94.95 in hardcover from Routledge; also for Amazon Kindle) by William Sims Curry. The second edition of the book has just been published, and it updates “best practices” based on a 2015 survey of states, cities and other governmental entities.

Bill Curry is President of WSC Consulting in Chico; he is a Certified Professional Contracts Manager and served on the Professional Standards and Ethics Committee of the National Contract Management Association. His book provides not just guidance for agencies but online templates ranging from a “request for proposal” (RFP) to a Contractor Performance Report.

Chapters provide exquisite detail on healthy competition (Curry writes me that “reliance on sole source contracting during emergencies can actually delay the delivery of services and supplies”); setting up transparent communication; dealing with conflicts of interest; responding to protests; contract review; and how to rank proposals in the first place.

Curry shows how various contract proposal scoring mechanisms (from color coding to a 1-10 scale) fall woefully short. For example, if a group of contract reviewers using a 10-point scale tends to favor a range of 7-10 (7 would be “average” or acceptable), another reviewer could bias the result by using the full range, assigning a 1 here or a 10 there.

A better way is called Total Weighted Score, which involves using a 7-10 scale for subjective ratings and a weighted score for objectively determined items (like cost). The idea is for the RFP to say how much the cost or number of employees “counts” in the final determination. (I note that the Federal Department of Defense, which prohibits such scoring, should get a clue.)

Curry’s comprehensive guide is great beach reading--especially if your company is proposing to clean it up.

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