City eliminates no-bid contracting
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Lawyers, financial advisers, entertainers and other professionals will have to compete if they want contracts with the city of Pittsburgh, under new procedures released by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration yesterday.
The new rules are a fulfillment of a pledge the mayor made in January to eliminate -- with few exceptions -- no-bid contracting in the city and its authorities.
"The overall goal is that each of these professional service contracts will have some sort of competitive process, so the taxpayer gets the best value," said city Finance Director Scott Kunka. "There's going to be more work [involved in contract awards], but we think that in the long run, it's going to serve the taxpayers, and the business community, better."
The new rules apply to lawyers, architects, auditors, engineers, entertainers and other professionals that have traditionally been picked through highly subjective processes, or none at all.
State law requires that governments award contracts for commodities and construction to the lowest responsible bidder, but there are no laws on granting professional pacts.
The mayor's new rules say that for contracts expected to be above $30,000, the city has to invite competing firms to submit proposals or qualifications, and pick a winner based on things like price, capability, location, experience, and minority- and women-owned business participation. For contracts under $30,000, the city just needs to get three proposals.
There are some exceptions, including emergencies, services available from only one company, contracts driven by court orders, expert witnesses and pacts with other governments. The solicitor has to approve all exceptions and publicly disclose the reasons.
Mr. Kunka said that the administration would be open to writing the new rules into the city code, if City Council wants that.
Mr. Ravenstahl has also asked city-related authorities to eliminate noncompetitive contracts, and Mr. Kunka said administration members who sit on authority boards will push for policies mirroring the city's new one.
The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority board yesterday got a first look at a plan to have professional contracts of more than $25,000 awarded only after multiple firms are invited to submit proposals, graded according to pre-set criteria and reviewed by a committee. The board could vote on the rules next month.
First Published April 18, 2009 12:00 am