Blue Louisa: A blog Covering Central Virginia & national politics from a progressive perspective
The first question I asked myself was why is Louisa County hiring Timmons Group to perform services at taxpayer expense? Then, what substantial benefit could Timmons provide to the county? Lastly, I asked what potential harm could Timmons do because County officials inadequately selected and inappropriately offered them a contract?
A good place to start would be at the beginning. Specifically, how the County procures services, which is supposed to be based on Virginia Code –and supplemented by Good Business Practices (GBP) from the commercial sector of the economy. Admittedly, this requires a certain level of sophistication, but it doesn’t require tremendous effort to get to that level.
Louisa County’s “Request For Proposal” (RFP# ED-18-01) and Timmons’ response offer a good point of reference. After reviewing these documents, a short, incomplete list of nine pages was created to document some of the inconsistencies in the procurement life cycle.
Just to make it easy, some of the highlights from the review of that RFP and the proposal are listed below.
· The County required the “consultant” to have performed at all levels of work. There may have been a quasi-review of this but there were no indications about how that review would be conducted.
· The Offeror (Timmons) was required to provide evidence of capabilities, professional expertise, and experience. The review of this RFP requirement seemed to indicate little evidence of this.
o One example is an employee identified as having Quality Assurance responsibilities. This position is typically supposed to be independent from all other organizational activities. In fact, in government procurements, this independence from all other organizational activities, which are performed as part of product or services is explicitly documented to avoid conflict of interest.
Yet, in the proposal, the individual with the Quality Assurance responsibilities also held another position, which usually brings about questions for resolution during the screening process. Literature from the American Society for Quality (ASQ) consistently discusses this issue. In addition, there are no indications that anyone from Timmons is a member of ASQ with certifications.
o The RFP required Project Management expertise but there was no one listed at Timmons with a certification form the Project Management Institute (PMI) – a notable discrepancy.
o The RFP specified that a description for the Project Management Approach and Philosophy be documented. In keeping with the missing PMI credentials, “Approach and Methodology” for Project Management was also missing. Given the seriousness of “Approach and Methodology,” for taxpayer funded activities, there should have been more attention by Timmons to including that information; and the County should have been more attentive to the requirements being imposed on a contractor providing services to County taxpayers. Consultants aren’t cheap.
o The RFP contained a specific statement, that any attempts by the Offeror to make changes to the Master Contract General Conditions Agreement is reason to declare the proposal non-responsive and it would be rejected. The cover letter to Timmons from the County indicates otherwise.
· The RFP contained no instructions relating to reviews of proposals, although there was mention of it. After reading Timmons proposal, I wondered, not so much why that comment was included, but what are the qualifications of the reviewers.
The Timmons proposal struck me as lacking substance and competitiveness in the way the proposal was written and presented. Timmons just seemed … disinterested. That was a strange sensation for proposals intended to show that one company is better than another, and deserving a contract. And yet, Timmons was awarded the contract.
Louisa Country citizens – should seriously consider the real possibility that their tax dollars could be misspent. Here’s the statement in the RFP that we all should pay attention to:
“All reports, drawings, specifications, computer files, field data, notes and other documents and instruments prepared by the Architect or Engineer as instruments of service shall remain the property of the Architect or Engineer.” Meaning, Louisa taxpayers pay for all the work products created but don’t get to keep them. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t like to pay for something I can’t have.
Moving forward, it would be good for everyone to question how many other contracts are being written and processed in this same inadequate manner. There should be questions about how tax dollars are funding uncertain ventures because of poor organizational and administrative practices. And, to question the wisdom of the county promoting these ventures in the name of progress and development.
In conclusion, my thoughts keep going back to how the County received the initial Due Diligence Report for the Industrial Park at Shannon Hill, hurriedly presented it for the Louisa County Board of Supervisors (BOS) to vote on continuing it. A continuance, which was eventually stopped by the Board of Supervisors.
I wonder if the BOS voted that way because a Louisa County citizen pointed out a statement that should have been caught, but was apparently missed. That statement essentially indicated that no decisions should be made based on the content of that report.
Such a simple statement, and so easily overlooked. It makes you wonder if the County and the BOS have the best interest of the citizens in mind when RFPs are issued. It makes you wonder about the qualifications of the individuals involved in the creation, administration, and decision process. It makes you wonder what your tax dollars are being misspent on even now.
What is the County doing now? With Timmons?
We need citizens to actively participate by asking relevant questions of the County, of Timmons, and of any other taxpayer funded provider, especially when the impact is in the millions of dollars.
We need access to, and answers from, Timmons, the County, and any other taxpayer funded provider.
We need Louisa County citizens to show them the way.
Editor’s Note: This op-ed has been posted with the author’s permission, and is in response to an April 4th article in the Central Virginian, along with a relevant quote from the CV’s article; "The board made the funding (of Timmons) contingent on a grant from GO Virginia, the state economic development initiative. The county is expected to compete for a state grant of at least $200,000 when the Go Virginia board meets in June."
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