Sunday, December 2, 2012

Consultant Selection - New Orleans Style

I posted a blog entry last week about my speech in New Orleans in which I spoke on "Best Practices in Public Sector Consultant Selection."  I was invited to speak there to help raise public awareness of some troubling selection practices being used in the region.

Unusual selection process:  Jefferson Parish (like a county) has a very unorthodox and problematic process for consultant and service provider selection.  After an evaluation committee has scored proposals based on established criteria and weighting, the results are provided to the elected Parish councilmembers.  The Council then allows the councilmember in whose district the work will be performed to make the selection without regard to the evaluation scoring.  

Ethical problems with the process:  This process used by Jefferson Parish encourages corruption and favoritism in the selection process by the Parish Council.  Decisions are often made on the basis of campaign contributions and personal relationships. 
  • Campaign contributions:  A May 2012 report by the New Orleans based non-profit Bureau of Governmental Research noted that "the current council members received roughly $580,000 in campaign contributions in 2011 from parish service contractors and their principals.  This amount accounted for 43% of the contributions the councilmembers received last year." 
  • Less than the best of reasons:  In selecting the fourth ranked firm to design an $18 millions performing arts center, the councilmember who made the decision noted, according the the BGR report, that he made the selection because "the selected architect was the only firm to contact him regarding the project and that he was impressed with the firm's enthusiasm." The project design has been a problem and the project is now years behind in schedule with cost overruns of 67% of the project budget.
Should price be a criterion for RFPs?  One of the debates that Jefferson Parish is having is the role of price in evaluating proposals and making selections.  Parish President John Young argues that price should be the only factor for many services.  My experience is that price should be a factor for all non-architectural and engineering services.  The amount that is scored based on price should vary depending on the type of service and how clearly defined the scope of work is.  The more clearly defined the scope of work, the lower the percentage of points that should be attributed to price.  Parish councilmembers now appear willing to consider price as one of the factors in evaluating RFPs. The discussion seems to revolve around establishing a set percentage for price on all RFPs, something I think would not be in the best interests of projects or Jefferson Parish.  See the November 29, 2012 newspaper article from The Times-Picayune newspaper.

Media coverage:  A number of newspaper reporters were present at the November 27, 2012 event at which I spoke and ran articles on it.  Here are links to the newspaper stories:
  • Best Practices in Public Sector Consultant Selection. My presentation at the November 27, 2012 breakfast briefing sponsored by the Bureau of Governmental Research.  Please contact me if you'd like me to email you a copy of my PowerPoint.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2012 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

No comments: