2021 | Government

Inspector general finds flaws in some of county’s contract awards

Watchdog report expands on findings of MCPS’ school bus camera program

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A new report from the county’s inspector general finds that while the county does a good job of administering certain contracts, not all met standards for fair competition.

Under county law, officials can have “bridge contracts” or “piggyback contracts,” to use an outside public entity’s procurement process to meet contract competition requirements. 

The inspector general’s review broadly looked at a sample of more than 20 such contracts county officials entered between July 1, 2018, and Oct. 29, 2020.

The review was prompted by the office’s findings of a contract executed between Montgomery County police, Montgomery County Public Schools and an out-of-state school district and vendor regarding a school bus safety camera program.

In that review, completed in 2019, it appeared the county paid more than $750,000 of tax revenue for administrative and personnel costs and transferred more than $10 million in ticket revenue to the vendor, but county officials received none of that revenue. 

The vendor, called Force Multiplier, and Dallas County Schools Superintendent Rick Sorells and Dallas Mayor Dwaine Caraway all pleaded guilty to crimes involving bribes and kickbacks to public officials in exchange for “favorable actions furthering [Force Multiplier’s] local business interests,” the report stated.

A later Montgomery County contract stipulated that the county receives 40 percent of fine revenue when drivers pass stopped school buses, Bethesda Beat previously reported.

The more recent inspector general’s report showed that for the most part, the county followed its laws and policies regarding bridge contracts, including ensuring fair competition through the procurement process.

Better competition through the bridge contract process can ensure a lower overall cost and a more complete scope of work, the report stated.

But the report noted that the use of bridge contracts also can result in less spending on minority-, female- and disabled-owned businesses. 

Of 23 contracts the inspector general reviewed, two were awarded without adequate competition, the report says. One did not have the same price as the original contract written by county government, and three contained broader specifications than what were written in the final contracts.

In a response to the inspector general’s report, the county’s chief administrative officer, Rich Madaleno, wrote that county officials were not violating any policies or regulations with their bridge contracts.

However, county officials agreed with the inspector general’s recommendation to provide better documentation of how the county ensures proper competition through its bridge contracts.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com