DeKalb County reforms procurement code
In the wake of scandal, DeKalb County, Ga., has reformed its procurement code, simplifying it from two large binders to 39 pages available online.
According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, DeKalb County’s intention is to make its bidding process more open and competitive and to keep out corrupt businesses. According to an interview with local radio station WABE, problems were found in the procurement process dating back to the time of former CEO Vernon Jones, who served from 2001 to 2009. County Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis, who is now suspended, will go on trial next month for allegations that he inappropriately pressured contractors for campaign contributions.
The new rules forbid the splitting of contracts. As contracts below $50,000 were not subject to competitive bidding, some county leaders came under fire for "splitting" contracts that exceeded $50,000 into multiple contracts to avoid the competitive bidding process. Audits revealed suspended Purchasing Director Kelvin Walton had approved multiple payments to county vendors under $50,000.
Further, the new rules state that an “ineligible source list” assembled by an employee committee will bar those guilty of bad faith, breaches of contract, unethical behavior or conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude from doing business with the county. Those on this list can be there for up to three years. Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May said the exclusion list would provide the county with a vehicle to avoid doing business with those who operate without integrity or failed to deliver on their promises.
“We will be holding people’s feet to the fire,” May said in the AJC interview. “The changing of the procedures helps to eliminate the ability of any individual to manipulate the system.”
Acting Purchasing Director Scott Callan said in the AJC interview the new system will save taxpayer dollars in the long run. The new policy creates a “cone of silence” to prevent any attempt to influence the outcome of a contract. According to the code, prospective suppliers must compete within the parameters of the solicitation process and are forbidden from seeking inside information, trying to skew the writing of specifications or influencing a procurement decision by means outside the official process. If companies violate the rule, they can be disqualified from consideration. The policy states a business in violation may be recommended for placement on the ineligible source list.
The county has more than 2,200 active vendors. The goal is to implement the system in the next two months.