Monday, May 21, 2007

Can't Find Good Help

You are no doubt aware of this article by the P-G's Rich Lord about hanky-panky in the Department of Public Works. We do not care to discuss it today because:

The politicization of public works is likely to emerge as a top issue in coming months, as Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration attempts to computerize city management, Councilman William Peduto pushes for reform legislation, and new council members take office.

Instead, we return to an earlier article involving other men with big tools and big machines for building stuff (h/t Cog Dis):

The Pittsburgh Housing Authority's process in awarding a $20 million-plus contract to improve energy efficiency is coming under fire from two firms that say it gives another company the inside track on the potentially lucrative work.

The ironic thing is, one of the losing bidders, Carnegie-based CLT, just weeks ago took heat for having been given a sweetheart deal for a streetlights contract.

What is the plot here? Is it that CLT is a bunch of whiners who think they deserve every city contract by manifest destiny?

Or is it that the City of Pittsburgh does not have strong enough processes for soliciting and evaluating bids? That they enter into the process with a clear idea to whom to award the contracts? And that this leaves them open to criticism, then to over-compensation, and then to still more criticism -- to say nothing of cost inefficiencies?

Though the Siemens study is a thick binder of analysis of the authority's many properties, firms interested in the job were provided with just a 33-page section describing the wiring, insulation, heating and other features in the buildings. Mr. Morgan said he complained to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the authority, saying that since Siemens has access to its entire study, all potential bidders should get a copy. He said he was told there's nothing HUD can do.

Or is it that all of these contractors play dirty pool? That would be a newsflash. But what to do about it?


  1. The bad blood associated with city and authority contracts has been to a boil for years. When the stadiums were built -- (remember -- if you're NOT too new here) the pass through contracts.

  2. The city controller's office is responsible for auditing contracts once they are issued. Like Mark pointed out, though city/county gets blurry here, pass through contracting continues.
    The city does have a process for soliciting and evaluating bids but it is not enforced. It needs to be reformed. CLT wasn't competing with the minimum of 2 other bidders for the street light contract if I remember correctly.
    I've been wondering about the possibility for the burghosphere to work collaboratively on picking up on issues like this and proposing alternative policies to the city.