Lawyer says lack of transparency hinders bidding on city contracts

An attorney representing Xerox Corp. said the opaque processes used to award government contracts in Baltimore are discouraging major companies from bidding.

“It is not in the city’s best interest to treat companies like the way it has in this case,” Robert Fulton Dashiell told the Board of Estimates today, arguing that the Bureau of Purchases did not properly explain why Xerox lost a $5 million contract to Digitech Computer Inc.

At issue is the processing and billing of the Fire Department’s ambulance and emergency medical services. Xerox subsidiary ACS, which describes itself as the world’s largest business process outsourcing company, held the contract for the last three years.

Dashiell charged that members of the panel that reviewed the bids made derogatory comments about ACS – “they said the provider was not competent” – which prejudiced its bid.

When ACS requested information on the award process through Maryland’s Public Information Act, material was withheld, he added.

“If you want major companies like Xerox to see Baltimore as a trusted place to do business, you got to provide transparency,” Dashiell told the spending board, led by City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (who was absent today, her place taken by Finance Director Harry Black).

“Nothing Out of Bounds”

Joseph Mazza, chief of purchasing, disputed Dashiell’s characterization of the dispute.

When ACS informed him of alleged prejudicial statements by two panel members, Mazza said he investigated and found “no unusual or untoward comments . . . nothing out of bounds for RFPs [Requests for Proposals].”

The purchasing chief said ACS was given an initial technical score of 75 – the minimum level to be considered a semi-finalist – while Digitech earned 93.

After each company gave their oral presentation to the review panel, ACS’s score dropped to 71, while Digitech stayed at 90.

The panel consisted of five members of the fire department and one member of the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology.

Asked if the fire department was satisfied with ACS’s performance on the current contract, Mazza said, “We did not find it to be incompetent.” He defended the technical scoring system, saying it was needed to assess bids evaluated on criteria other than lowest cost. “This process is designed to get the best result.”

On the motion of City Solicitor George Nilson, the board unanimously rejected the protest and awarded the contract to Digitech for $5 million. It will be in effect through March 2015, with five one-year renewals.

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  • Ktrueheart

    Could NOT have said it better …

  • Unellu

    What are the questions to determine the technical score?  That would be interesting to know.  I love– we did not find it to be incompetent–Mazza’s statement about ACS.  It preserves the secrecy of the bidding process, it doesn’t criticize ACS, it doesn’t praise ACS–
    it doesn’t say what the criteria are for picking a winner, more important than lower cost, it doesn’t say what the best result would be and what the winner should do to achieve that result–man, the whole process is arbitrary and yet, it is achieved with such an air of studied superiority–playing down cost and playing up some mysterious requisites stored in Ali Baba’s cave–that only the panel of Chosen Ones can “Open Sesame”.    

  • Tom Kiefaber

    The true reality surrounding what slimes along through the rigged process at Baltimore’s Board of Estimates (BOE) is, and has been, a reeking disgrace for too many years of malfeasance & fraud. 
    City Solicitor George Nilson, Steala Dixon’s shameful apologist, should be incarcerated instead of sitting on the BOE. Attend as a citizen, any Wednesday morning meeting you choose in City Hall & you’ll be stunned & horrified at what takes place. Where are the federal law enforcement investigators? Where is the accountability the citizens were promised by our puppet Mayor Booty, who promised to restore the citizen’s trust in the process after the recent City Hall scandals? Yet we’re closing pools, after school programs and rec centers while millions are doled out to cabal cronies on a weekly basis? Our elections are a sham. Time for flash group citizen youth rebellions to be organized to alert the federal authorities that we need intervention in our criminal government’s activities. These City Hall royals abuse the citizens and rape our city coffers while we are powerless and forced to watch. Our city’s street gangs have more integrity than these corrupt machine thieves, run amuck. It’s high time to force the devil, back down in the hole to try and save our city while we still can.

  • Maryland Esquire

    What were the prices of the two bidders that you mention in your article?

    You do not indicate what documents the City failed to disclose.  “Transparency” does not mean that confidential or privileged documents are disclosed.

    • Anonymous

      From Baltimore Brew: The bid prices from Digitech and Xerox were the same — $5M, according to a Xerox official. Price was not the issue; it was the technical scoring by the review panel and the alleged derogatory comments about Xerox by two members. The city’s purchasing agent, Mr. Mazza, said he investigated the allegation and found no merit to it. The city did not release information about the panel’s deliberations that Xerox requested under the PIA law, according to lawyer Dashiell.

  • Barnadine the Pirate

    Wait, something at the Board of Estimates wasn’t transparent? The devil you say! How could that be?

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