Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Louisiana Agency's RFP Selection Practices Still Fall Short of Transparency and Best Practices

After more than two years of maneuvering and input from good government watchdog groups, political leaders in Louisiana took very limited, but ultimately misguided and insufficient steps toward creating a more transparent process for selecting firms based on Requests for Proposals (RFPs).  

2 changes approved:  On August 27, 2014, the Jefferson Parish Council voted to make two changes to its selection practices for non-professional services and non-standard items valued at more than $15,000.  (A parish in Louisiana is like a county.) 
  • Council discretion in overruling selection recommendation:  The new ordinance allows the Council to not award to the highest rated firm as evaluated by the selection committee, if the score of the firm selected is within 10% of the score of the highest rated firm.  Previously, the Council had unlimited discretion in ignoring the scores from the selection committee.  While this change represents a movement in the right direction, it still subjects the selection process to inappropriate political influence, and has the impact of negating the published evaluation criteria, since the Council can choose to override the ratings of a technical evaluation committee.  Elected governing bodies should not be involved in the selection process because of the frequently documented connection between awards and campaign contributions. Instead the role of elected governing bodies should be to approve budgets and allow the executive branch to administer those budgets (see my blog on this subject).
  • Price always worth 25% of evaluation points:  The recently adopted ordinance also increases from 20% to 25% the selection criteria points attributable to price in an RFP.  Establishing a set percentage attributable to price in an ordinance is shortsighted and does not recognize the different types of solicitations that public agencies issue.  If a service is very well defined, price should be a higher percentage, while in other instances, where the scope is less well defined and the qualifications of the firm selected are more important than price, the percentage should be lower, even lower than the 25% now embedded in the Parish’s ordinance.  The Council chose to ignore advice on this issue from the independent Bureau of Governmental Research.
More information:  For more information about this issue in Louisiana, see the following resources: 
  • Ordinance 24815, adopted August 27, 2014 by the Jefferson Parish Council.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog
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Anonymous said...

Mike, by any chance do you know if they ever use federal funds? How can they possibly have these requirements and comply with grant requirements?

Mike Purdy said...

I assume that Jefferson Parish does receive some federal funds. It's a great question about how their less than transparent and non-best practices selection processes could be in compliance with federal grant requirements.