December 20, 2014
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury

SERVICE CONTRACT PROCUREMENT PRACTICES

Summary | Background | Findings | Recommendations | Responses
Summary:

The grand jury reviewed service contracts, other than those in support of civil works (roads and minor construction), which require approval by the Board of Supervisors. This review focused on the documentation provided to the Board of Supervisors. The issues raised were of two general types: the correctness and preciseness of the material provided to the board and the granting of exceptions to the use of Request For Proposals (RPF) when an RFP appears to be appropriate.

The grand jury identified a number of different issues in the documentation, including exemptions from the use of an RFP when in fact an RFP had been used; a 46% management fee that turned out to be the total labor cost; and failure to seek an alternative contractor in various cases.

The grand jury recommends that the Board of Supervisors revise its procedures to assure that documents relevant to procurement items submitted for its approval are complete and correct and to ensure that any request to waive the use of an RFP is justified in order for the public to be assured of the best possible contract conditions, including cost.

Background:

The San Mateo Registration-Elections Division is responsible for administering most elections held in the county. It maintains voter registration records, distributes sample, official, and absentee ballots, and certifies election results. The division is allowed by law to recover costs incurred in administering said elections with certain exceptions. The underlying law reflects that the state is not responsible for election costs other than the direct cost of printing the pre-election information pamphlet which describes proposed state propositions and the costs of absentee balloting that are largely recoverable under legislation commonly referred to as "SB 90." (Senate Bill No. 90 was enacted in 1972 and requires the state to reimburse local governmental entities for costs incurred in executing any service mandated by state legislation. Claims for such costs must be documented and submitted for approval to the Commission on State Mandates. This report, therefore, refers to SB 90 costs, claims, and process for sake of brevity.) In addition, the Election and Education Codes establishes various rules for when costs of an election should be apportioned (normally on the basis of registered voters) or borne equally in special circumstances.

The cases to be studied were selected from meeting agendas of the Board of Supervisors. The material provided in support of the selected requests was then reviewed. Meetings were held with a representative of the county manager's office to resolve questions.

The issues raised were of two general types. The first was the correctness and preciseness of the material provided to the board and the second was the appropriateness of not using Request for Proposals (RFP). RFP is a request for proposals from competing vendors in order to assure best possible contract conditions, including cost. The law requires that an RFP is to be used in all such cases, except that exemptions may be granted for professional services. While such exemptions may be authorized, it is not required that such exemptions be used. The grand jury did not examine any contracts or review any work for conformance to contracts. This review was focused on the documentation provided to the Board of Supervisors.

Findings:

The grand jury identified a number of different issues in the documentation. Examples of those issues are the following: In some cases an exemption from the use of an RFP was requested when in fact an RFP had been used. In one case, what was listed as a 46% management fee turned out to be the total labor cost. In one case of data automation, it was stated that the only alternative to the one contractor was to do all the work manually; however, no alternative contractor was sought. In some cases no RFP was considered. The reason given in some cases was satisfaction with the existing contract and in one case, that there were no alternate sources. The new person in charge of that program identified three other acceptable sources, and an RFP has now been prepared.

Recommendations:


Recommendation 1.3

The Board of Supervisors should revise its procedures to assure that documentation relevant to procurement items submitted for its approval are complete and correct and to ensure that any request to waive the use of an RFP is justified in order for the public to be assured of the best possible contract conditions.

Responses

 

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