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Paper trail peters out at City Hall

Bids submitted show that the proposed awardee, TeleCom, had the highest bid, Digicon had second highest bid, and ICS Nett bid far lower than the other two companies – but lost the bid due to the undisclosed "rating system" of a city review panel. (City Comptroller's Office)

Regarding our latest City Hall story, the above document shows that TeleCommunication Systems submitted the highest bid for staffing city agencies with IT personnel – fully $4.4 million higher than ICS Nett.

So how did the Bureau of Purchases end up recommending TeleCom to the Board of Estimates yesterday? (Well, it recommended the Hanover-based company until Olivia Pope – I mean Lisa Harris Jones – forced a postponement to kick off a week of special pleading on behalf of her client, Digicon.)

Here’s some more background on this murky bit of business: The official depository of all publicly opened bids, the Comptroller’s Office, doesn’t have a copy of the three bids, according to staff for board secretary Harriette Taylor. Nor does the Law Department, according to City Solicitor George Nilson.

That leaves Purchases as the sole possessor of such “public” information, and Chief Purchasing Agent Tim Krus isn’t talking. Attempts to reach him by phone and email yesterday and today have been met with silence.

But we can tell you how this contract came down to being a duel between the high bidders, TeleCom and Digicon:

Originally, eight companies submitted technical proposals to supply the IT personnel. But five of the companies were rejected even before the May 22 bid opening because they failed to meet unspecified “minimum requirements.”

That left the three companies referenced in the above chart with the “PROPORSAL” (uhh, we assume they mean “PROPOSAL”) for Enterprise Technology Staffing Support.

But actual dollars accounted for only part of the decision. Like “Dancing with the Stars” and other contestant shows, the money part of the bid gets mixed up with a scoring system by a review panel.

The maximum technical score was 400 points divided into the following areas: “Corporate Background” (max of 100 points); “Customer References” (max of 100 points); “Management Approach” (max of 100 points); “Method of Operation” (max of 50 points); “Transition Plan and answers to questions” posed by the panel (max of 50 points).

Somehow, ICS Nett scored so poorly on nebulous (or is it subjective?) criteria that it lost out to TeleCom – even though its bid was 36% lower.

Stated differently, TeleCom is going to provide taxpayers $4.4 million worth of better staff than ICS Nett, according to the review panel whose members haven’t yet been disclosed.

Tim Krus should be asked a lot of questions by the Board of Estimates next week.

If past is precedent, he might well get some from City Comptroller Joan Pratt or gadfly attorney Arnold Jolivet. But expect sealed lips from Mayor Rawlings-Blake, the real Olivia Pope who controls the board and its votes.

Paper trail peters out at City Hall
  • whiskers

    Also, since TCS has had the contract for the previous years, split with Digicon the last go around, bringing in a new contractor will cause issues with continuity of service with the agency’s that are staffed with those IT professionals. There is much more to consider here then just a lower bid because sometimes you do get what you pay for. Remember Utech? That was the reason the contract was divided years back because of the Dixon shenanigans.

  • Jack

    Mark, does accuracy matter to you? Mr. Jolivet is not an attorney at law. Check the bar registry. While he may be an advocate he isn’t a practicing attorney.

    Furthermore, other than Jones presence in the room with a digicom rep, you have provided no evidence that she is the reason the matter was deferred. What evidence have you of “special pleading?” are the representatives of the other companies not working the case or have you not focused on them because they are not black women? Finally, your willingness to call Jones out of her name, and shockingly by the name of a black fictional character shows an personal agenda not an objective media member. She didn’t give you a quote, move past it, get to the story.

    Why is an award being made above a bidders’ asking price? What were the technical scores? Why is an award being made in spite of all bidders failure to meet minority business goals? Did the award winner give you a quote or did you not even try? Will the award winner be required to increase wbe MBE participation as a result of the increase or will it just be retracted and an increase be approved later? What percentage did price count toward the award? Getting answers to those questions requires your skill as a journalist; printing assumptions without facts, calling a woman out of her name seems beneath the Brew’s standards.

    • davethesuave

      all good points, missing the gist of the matter entirely. but good search skills on Arnold Jolivet. it really matters. a lot.

  • cwals99

    Mark,

    I thank you for all of this research as it is indeed a deal that is tainted by public malfeasance any way you look at it. Is it journalism to state what can be proven by past behavior over and over if not actually backed by direct evidence this one time…..that one person’s pleading could and did effect the outcome in bidding awards…..YES, FOR GOODNESS SAKE! WHEN YOU ARE DEALING WITH A CITY HALL WITH SUCH A CRONY AND CORRUPT SYSTEM WITH NO TRANSPARENCY THEN REPEATED OUTCOMES BECOME PROOF!

    I was sitting in front of Mr. Black, the mayor’s Finance head at a Board of Estimates meeting and he was talking with the finance department lawyers that always find ways around all of what is law to make these bids work the way the want rather than in the public’s interest. Black pointed out to these young lawyers that they would learn to finesse (a paraphrase) – skillful handling of a situation : adroit maneuvering- these bidding contract laws. The entire idea with Rule of Law is that there is no ‘finesse’. Rule of Law is equal protection/application for all. Mark gave the outline of the rules used in scoring these bids as a way to show that they have made this entire process subjective and malleable.

    The citizens of Baltimore are sick and tired of this unprecedented level of cronyism. It is not centered on Rawlings-Blake….it is centered on the idea of a quasi-governmental agency taking all ability of the public to have voice in public policy as the Baltimore Development Corporation does. Democracy does not allow for shadow governments that take over all public function and capture the political process and this is what is behind all that happens with the Board of Estimates. Johns Hopkins controls this NGO and it is time this institution back away from public policy and capture.