Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Missing Pittsburgh Contracting Records – Sloppy Recordkeeping Or Cronyism?

An audit of 60 Pittsburgh urban renewal design and construction contracts released May 10 by Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb shows that 30 of those files are missing required documentation regarding project advertisements, bid openings and evaluation and ranking of responding proposals. Urban Redevelopment Authority Director Rob Stephany’s only response: “There is room for improvement.” Of course, public and press requests for documentation under freedom of information laws is a useless exercise if the documents which should be in every public contracting file, by the agency’s own rules and policies, are lost or were never created.

Lamb’s audit points out that Stephany’s files don’t even include a checklist at the front identifying the records which should be included in the file. This simple office procedure could lead to better record keeping, or it could serve to point out instances where cronyism replaced “lowest responsible bidder” as the criterion for selection of the winning contractor. Lam’s audit report noted that “Compiling a checklist for the documentation and including it in the front of the file may help keep track of the required paperwork.” Duh! Maybe the absence of a checklist is the agency’s way of hiding misfeasance from public scrutiny.

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