We all get upset when government officials award contracts to their friends’ companies, bypassing what should be a competitive bidding process for taxpayer dollars. Actually, it turns out that the government awards many contracts with no bidding at all — and the whole thing is legal.
Take the NYC department of education. Between 2005 and 2008, they awarded more than $342 million dollars to companies who had never even entered the bidding process, according to a report released today by the state comptroller’s office. For the vast majority of these no-bid contracts, the department provided no justification — besides “special circumstances” — for them not having to compete against other firms.
DiNapoli’s report also found that the department doesn’t take minutes during its committee meetings in which contract discussions occur — so no record is kept about how decisions are made. Sounds like a breeding ground for conflicts of interest.
This isn’t the first time the DOE has gotten into trouble for runaway contracts. Last month, city Comptroller Bill Thompson called out Joel Klein for allowing the price of contracts to balloon out of control — like when the city spent half a million dollars on ballroom dancing when it originally planned on spending far less.
When asked to explain that one, a spokeswoman from the agency said that a newfound craze for ballroom dancing caused the district to contribute more resources. Photo (cc) yomanimus.