Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s administration will issue a Request for Qualifications by the end of the week for a program manager to oversee the nearly $1 billion MovEBR roads improvement program.
The procurement document has been eagerly anticipated by the engineering community, as the program management contract is estimated to be worth between $70 million and $80 million, the largest of its kind in the city’s history.
Broome confirms the procurement document will be a RFQ, not a RFP, or Request for Proposals. Though the difference sounds technical it’s significant: An RFP evaluates submissions on price and qualifications, while an RFQ evaluates solely on the basis of experience and abilities.
While state law requires engineering and design contracts be awarded on the basis of qualifications only, some business leaders have been pushing the Broome administration to factor cost into its evaluation, arguing that the program management contract is not for engineering or design work but simply project management.
But Broome tells Daily Report the RFQ is the appropriate way to procure a program manager and there is no legal way to include cost in an RFQ.
“Our goal is to stick with the legal process that has been outlined historically,” she says. “But I will also say my goal is to make sure at all levels there is transparency and a fiscal responsibility implemented.”
Broome says her administration will be tough when it comes to negotiating a price with whatever firm is selected, and says she plans to put together a negotiating team that includes outside professionals to make sure the city-parish get the “best possible price.”
“Just because we have a $900 million-plus program does not mean we just want to give away money,” she says. “We want to make sure we are getting the best for the citizens.”
The decision to issue a RFQ instead of a RFP is a disappointment to the leaders at Bernhard Capital Partners. The private equity firm’s founder Jim Bernhard had been among those pushing the administration to factor cost into the equation on the front end rather than waiting until a selected firm is at the negotiating table.
Bernhard also had considerable leverage, given that he put his high-profile name and financial support behind the mayor’s half-cent sales tax to fund MovEBR.
Earlier this week, BCP’s corporate attorney, Jeff Koonce, also a member of the MovEBR board, said he’s researched the law and believes it clearly allows for cost to factor into the evaluation of a program manager.
“The only people I’ve heard complain about this are engineers,” Koonce says “Everyone else in the general public wants to avoid backroom negotiations. This is too big of a contract.”
Koonce said he’d be “extremely disappointed,” if the city issues a RFQ.
“I lent my name to this and got a lot of people to vote for it,” he says.
Broome says the administration plans to finish its draft of the RFQ and send it to the city-parish legal journal, The Advocate, no later than Friday. The advertisement will be published sometime next week.