$300M contract for flood relief program about to be up for grabs again

The Office of State Procurement will likely reissue on Wednesday the procurement documents for a contract worth an estimated $300 million to manage the state’s $1.6 billion flood recovery program, according to a spokesman for the Division of Administration.

The state decided March 17 to scrap the original procurement process, which began in early February, after complaints were filed against the team that was chosen to receive the contract.

That team, which is led by North Carolina-based IEM and includes several well-known Baton Rouge engineering and consulting firms, scored the highest among five teams that submitted proposals and quoted the lowest price, some $250 million.

But the second-place finisher in the process, a newly created entity called PDRM and led by Baton Rouge-based CSRS, filed a complaint with the State Licensing Board for Contractors, noting that IEM did not have a commercial contractor’s license at the time it submitted its proposal.

The licensing board’s attorney issued a recommendation that eligible bidders actually needed a residential contractor’s license, which would have effectively disqualified both IEM and PDRM, except the following day, the state decided to scrap the whole process and start over.

Jacques Berry, the spokesman for the Division of Administration, which is over the Office of State Procurement, says the new procurement document—technically, it will be called a solicitation for offer—will be very similar to the old request for proposals and that bidders will have 10 days to respond.

While state procurement issues are typically dry, technical matters, the controversy surrounding this contract is generating considerable buzz in the Capital Region’s political, legal and business communities. Each of the five participating teams has well-placed attorneys and lobbyists working on their behalf, and accusations and questions about improprieties are circling around the State Capitol.

Whether anything comes of the questions being raised behind the scenes has yet to be determined. In the meantime, IEM CEO Madhu Beriwal says her team plans to reapply, as does the PDRM team, third-place finisher, SLSCO, headed by Sullivan Land Services, and CB&I. It is unclear whether HGI will reapply.

“If they are going to rebid the contract we are going to bid on it,” Berwal says. “We won it the first time, and we are going to win it again.”

Berry says it’s not definite the new procurement document will be issued Wednesday, as attorneys for the state are still reviewing it.

—Stephanie Riegel

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