Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Louisiana Agency Fails to Revise Consultant Selection Practices

In November 2012, I spoke at a civic forum in New Orleans on best practices related to consultant selection practices.

Independent report urges taking politics out of selection process:  The independent Bureau of Governmental Research, which sponsored the event, produced a report and recommendations in May 2012 that Jefferson Parish (like a county) should make changes to their consultant selection practices in order to make selection less subject to political influences of Parish councilmembers.  Click here to read my December 2, 2012 blog posting on my speech there and some of the issues relating to consultant selection.

No action by Council:  The Parish President, John Young has made recommendations for changes, but so far no councilmembers have introduced or considered legislation.

Issues:  Issues at stake include the following:
  • Should top rated firm be selected?  The Parish Council currently makes consultant selections, often ignoring the ratings based on established evaluation criteria and weightings.  Some councilmembers appear to support limiting council discretion in selection to only the top three to five rated firms, while others maintain that only the top rated firm should be selected.  The best practice among public agencies is that the top rated firm should be selected.
  • Should price be an evaluation criterion?  Price is not included as an evaluation criterion for non-architectural, engineering, and landscape architectural services.  Parish President Young has proposed that price be a factor in the evaluation process.  The best practice is that price should be an evaluation criterion.  The weighting of the price component in the evaluation process is dependent on the nature of the work and how much it leans toward discretionary consulting services versus more routine services.  The more clearly defined the work, the higher the percentage that should be applied to price, since it is more like a bid.
  • How should conflicts of interest be handled?  Parish Council Chairman Chris Roberts is apparently developing a conflict of interest form that members of the evaluation committees would be required to complete to ensure no conflicts with those firms they would be reviewing.  Best practice has always been that members of evaluation committees should fill out conflict of interest statements.  Jefferson Parish is unusual in that the same individuals serve on committees for all selections, a situation ripe for potential abuse.
Citizen concerns:  The Citizens for Good Government, a citizen watchdog organization expressed disappointment in the lack of action by the Parish Council.  Margie Seeman stated that "We're disappointed that no ordinance in this matter appeared on the agenda."

More information:  Click here to read an article from The Times-Picayune.

Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

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