Why Adrian Fenty’s Parks Contracting Scheme Is an Outrage
Faster, better, cheaper.
That was the rationale offered today by the administration of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty for why at least $120 million in city money has been sent to the D.C. Housing Authority and, in turn, handed to politically connected contractors with the faintest whiff of oversight.
The revelations at the D.C. Council hearing today shocked LL's conscience. And LL's conscience, for the record, is not easily shocked. The revelations included:
—That tens of millions of city dollars were moved around the city budget without independent review, in clear violation of the Home Rule charter.
—That the money was handed to a so-called 'quasi-independent' public concern, the D.C. Housing Authority, who in turn engaged in a contracting process that saw little, if any, legal review. For their trouble, that concern was paid $700,000.
—That project management functions were outsourced by DCHA to a private company, Banneker Ventures, that was paid more than $4.2 million to do a job—capital project management—that the Department of Parks and Recreation already employs a staff of 11 to do.
—That Banneker Ventures, in turn, was allowed to run a subcontracting process with only the faintest adherence to accepted procurement practices, with immense power to distribute millions of dollars in public money to the contractors of their choice (including, incidentally, to Sinclair Skinner's Liberty Engineering & Design). And, with the input, LL might add, of the deputy mayor's office.
—That Banneker Ventures' contract described the scope of the work to be done for several projects—in some cases costing taxpayers more than $10 million—in a single paragraph of about 100 words. (An Office of the Inspector General chief noted that the language was "problematic" and "needs to be redone.")
—That this whole scheme was created and calibrated in such a way as to elude oversight by elected officials, and that the D.C. Council took as long as it did to figure out that this was going on under their noses.
The most surprising testimony of the day came from a family-owned local contractor, HRGM Corp., which talked about the subcontracting process that ensued after Banneker Ventures was handed the project management contract. Ramesh and Rachna Butani, father and daughter, both testified, essentially, that the process was a farce—that they were given limited information on what they were supposed to bid on, that the judging process was opaque, and that there was no attempt afterward to explain why they had lost the bid.
Said Rachna Butani, "It has been unclear to me what value Banneker Ventures adds....They're not responsive....They can't answer questions."
She added: "I don't believe they are professional or capable to handle these contracts."
Faster, better, cheaper?