Local Legislators Look For Transparency From Contractors
Legislation comes in wake of Hurricane Sandy
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the repair work that followed one of the most damaging storms in recent memory State Senators Barbara Buono and Linda Greenstein have introduced a bill aimed at monitoring repairs after emergency situations.
If passed the law would require state contracts to be advertised and bid on just as they would in normal situations but on an expedited schedule. The bill was recently moved through the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee.
"In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Governor awarded a multi-million dollar contract to AshBritt, a firm with deep-Republican Party ties, without any attempt at negotiating the price for services to protect taxpayer dollars — even though AshBritt has said they would have been willing to negotiate," Buono said. "Without question it was necessary for swift and thorough clean-up after such a disastrous storm as Sandy, but with an open and transparent process, we can be sure that relief funds are being spent efficiently and appropriately."
The bill, according to a press release from the Senators, would "create an expedited competitive contracting process," for the awarding of state and local government contracts during a state of emergency. The contracts would be required to follow pay-to-play laws as well as laws requiring the disclosure of political contributions by businesses working on public contracts.
Currently, the Disaster Control Act allows the Governor to use state resources and personal services as well as private property to help in disaster situations according to the release. It is through that law that Governor Christie was able to use a no-bid contract with AshBritt for debris removal following the storm.
Greenstein said for a state that has seen three "100 year" storms in a year and a half, special measures should be taken. "With this increase in natural disasters, it is essential that we revisit laws that govern our actions in an emergency to ensure they continue to serve the best interest of the people," she said. "Making sure that contracts are awarded competitively and that contributions from contractors are brought into the light of openness and transparency is a step to achieve that goal."
With the proposed bill a contract that was awarded in an emergency for things like the delivery of goods or the performance of services would need to be publicly announced and requests for proposals posted on the Treasury's website. Firms seeking the contract would have to submit a proposal and a statement of confidence as well as their qualifications and supporting documentation and data within 48 hours off the announcement, the release said.
The submitted proposals would then be ranked based on several factors including ability to meet their specifications, terms and conditions and qualifications of the project manager and team members. Other criteria like past performance and cost factors would also be considered. The three highest ranking firms would then be considered for the contract.
According to the release the state Treasurer would be able to wave pay-to-play restrictions for contributions made before the contract is awarded if there is "insufficient competition," which the release defines as "three or fewer responsive bids or proposals."
After being approved by the committee the bill now goes to the full Senate.