No bid contracts leave Bridgeport taxpayers on the hook…
First Paul Vallas retained the services of the Public Consulting Group.
In one of his many PowerPoint Presentations, Vallas wrote that “PCG Group is auditing the district’s Medicaid reimbursement process. PCG has an outstanding reputation for assessing and improving the process in order to obtain optimal reimbursement…”
Apparently, following their “review,” the consultants did what they often do and provided a report recommending that the city HIRE THEM, not just for Medicaid reimbursement work, but for providing a whole new software system for Bridgeport’s special education program.
Rather than putting the contract out to bid, Vallas inappropriately used a sole-source process to dump Bridgeport’s existing special educations software called Clarity and replace it with the product owned by PCG.
Team Vallas claimed that they go a spectacular deal. In fact, but for a $15,000 annual fee, Vallas said that PCG was going to offer them a product worth hundreds of thousands for FREE…
What happened to the notion that when something sounds too good to believe it probably is.
Among the unspoken issues is that the no-bid contract between Vallas and PCG includes a series of possible add-on components (outlined in Exhibit C2). These are all “additional modules” that Vallas could purchase without having to go out to bid.
Among them is an option allowing Bridgeport to expand EasyIEP to include a system to track what is called “RTI.” Here in Connecticut, it is actually called “SRBI.”
Regardless of what you call it, it is a series of federal and state laws and regulations that require schools to identify and develop programs that ensure that students with learning disabilities and other challenges get appropriate individualized programs that provide these students with the best possible education.
Thirty eight states now mandate that schools implement this type of program.
As part of the SRBI requirements, schools must screen every child, and where problems exist, the schools must develop and implement appropriate plans for each child that includes on-going progress monitoring. Many Connecticut towns are already doing it, but some like Bridgeport are collecting the required data on a more haphazard basis.
Sooner or later Bridgeport will be required to update the way they fulfill the SRBI requirements.
And that brings up back to the sole-source contract that Vallas signed with PCG.
The expansion option would allow Bridgeport to utilize PCG’s RTI/SRBI software for the cost of an additional $6.50 to $7.50 per student plus 100 hours of programing (at a cost of $15,000) to customize the City’s system. Together that would cost Bridgeport an additional $145,000 or so.
Is that a fair price?
Who knows, there was no bid process to determine whether a different company had a better product or would have been willing to provide more services for less money.
A little bit of research and it turns out that PCG – the very same company that got the no-bid contract in Bridgeport – recently won a competitive bid in Fulton County Georgia.
In Georgia, they didn’t offer $6.50 to $7.50 per student; they offered to charge the Georgia school system less than $ 1.00 more per student.
If that is true, the cost to Bridgeport taxpayers would have been $35,000 instead of $145,000.
But we will never really know because PCG was selected through a no-bid contract and now, any further competitive bids will be comparing apples and oranges.
Let’s be clear about the rules in Connecticut and Bridgeport:
The Vallas contracts (and there have been well over a dozen between contracts for software and consultants) must meet the legal requirements of Bridgeport’s Municipal Code: Codified through Ordinance of January 3, 2012. (Supp. No. 10, 3-12).
The legal requirements are not hard to understand.
The Bridgeport Municipal Code requires the follows:
- “Competitive bidding shall be used for all purchases of goods and general services exceeding the sum of seven thousand five hundred dollars ($7,500.00) (See C.G.S. § 7-148v, as amended)”
Instead, if Vallas and the Board claim that the services they purchased fall into the category of what is called “special or professional services,” then they must follow requirements exist:
- “Purchases exempt from competitive bidding. Purchases of special or professional services anticipated to cost between one dollar ($1.00) and nine hundred ninety-nine dollars ($999.00).”
- “Purchases permitted by informal competitive quotation process. Purchases of special and professional services anticipated to cost between one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) and seven thousand four hundred ninety-nine dollars ($7,499.00).”
- “Purchases requiring an informal competitive proposal process. Purchases of special or professional services that are in excess of seven thousand five hundred dollars ($7,500.00) but do not exceed twenty-four thousand nine hundred ninety-nine dollars ($24,999.00) (Proposals shall be solicited from at least three qualified or pre-qualified vendors…)”
And purchase of special goods and services over $25,000 shall require full competitive bidding.
So if the contracts were for standard products, Team Vallas had to put them out to bid if their total cost was more than $7,500.
If they claimed that they were “special” products or services, they had to put them out to bid if their total cost was more than $25,000 (with a modified competitive bidding if they were less than that.)
In nearly every case the contract that Paul Vallas signed or the illegal Board of Education approved was over $25,000 and none of them appear to have gone through the appropriate bidding process.
It is time for appropriate officials to investigate what appears to be a consistent willingness to violate Connecticut’s purchasing laws and regulations.