McHenry Co. (ECWd) –
It is the finding of the General Assembly that the cost to the public is increased and the quality of goods, services and construction paid for by public monies is decreased when contracts for such goods, services or construction are obtained by any means other than through independent noncollusive submission of bids or offers by individual contractors or suppliers, and the evaluation of those bids or offers by the governmental unit pursuant only to criteria publicly announced in advance. (Interference with public contracting)
So what do we look for when it comes to bidding to make sure the taxpayers are being represented as intended by our laws?
Manipulation of specifications is the most common problem we see so let’s apply some of the industry known red flags and see if they stick in relation to the Algonquin Township Road District purchase of a street sweeper. Before diving into those in this article, we encourage you to read this article first, that lays out a pretty solid foundation of a problem with this street sweeper bid process.
- Specifications are significantly narrower or broader than in previous similar requests for bids
- Close similarity between the specifications and the winning bidder’s product or services
- Specifications in Request for Bids includes specific brand names
- Indications or allegations that the winning bidder prepared the contract specifications
- Fewer than the normal or expected number of bids
- High number of contract awards to one bidder
- Complaints from losing bidders that the specifications are tailored to a competitor
Applying the seven red flags above to the Algonquin street sweeper bidding we see, and think honest people would agree, a real problem with the way that transaction was handled.
- The specifications were not only narrowed, they were an exact match to one vendor’s product.
- The specifications were not just similar but an exact match as the winning bidder’s product
- Specifications did not include brand names, but there was no need to when it was an exact match to the one brand who just happen to win the bid.
- There are indications the winning bidder prepared the contract specifications, as in emails that provided the specifications used.
- To date, the Township Clerk has failed to provide a SINGLE bid on this project so we don’t know how many other bidders there were.
- We understand complaints are surfacing from other bidders but have not been able to verify as the Township Clerk has failed to comply with our FOIA in order to find out who else bid on this project.
I think most would agree, when this many red flags appear in a public bidding project, it is appropriate to call for a criminal investigation on this matter.
- Do you know or suspect, or have you heard, that contract specifications are drafted to favor certain bidder?
- Have any competitors complained that the bidding specifications are too narrow or rigged to favor a certain bidder?
- Are any contract specifications drafted, in whole or part, by a contractor?
- Are contract specifications very similar to the product or services provided by a particular contractor?
- Does a particular contractor receive an unusually high percentage of the contracts awarded?
- Are specifications in certain requests for bids significantly narrower than other requests for similar products or services?
- Are a reasonable number of bids received in response to requests for bids, or only one or two?
- Do qualified contractors routinely fail to bid?
- Do any bidders socialize or have personal contact with contracting personnel before or during the bidding process?
- Are controls and procedures to prevent rigged specifications in place and enforced?
Who will be the first to take action and protect the taxpayers in McHenry County, the State’s Attorney or the Federal Government?