Correction to This Article
The article was accompanied by an incorrect photograph. The man identified as D.C. Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby was former D.C. Council member Vincent Orange.

Contracting Office Erred In Canceling Bidding and Overspent, Report Says

By Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 7, 2007

A sole-source contract awarded by the D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement to a company that processes traffic tickets cost $65 million, nearly $17 million more than estimated if more bids had been solicited, the D.C. Inspector General said yesterday.

Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby criticized the city's contracting office for canceling the bidding process and keeping the same contractor it has used for 23 years.

The contracting office also erred in awarding the contract to ACS State and Local Solutions without first getting the D.C. Council's approval, according to the inspector general. By law, the council must sign off on all contracts worth $1 million or more. Willoughby released his office's findings in a report yesterday.

Chief Procurement Officer David P. Gragan, who did not head the contracting office when ACS's contract was extended, said his staff will work with the Department of Motor Vehicles to "plan, solicit and award" a new contract for ticketing processing in 2009.

Gragan was appointed by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in June. The principal contracting officer involved with the sole-source contract awarded to ACS is no longer employed by the District, Gragan said.

The city contracts with private firms to process tickets and collect money from drivers fined for moving infractions and parking violations.

In 1999, the contracting office awarded ACS a $23 million, three-year contract for ticket-processing services. The deal also allowed for the contract to be extended for two years. During those five years, the contract was modified 19 times, and by May 2004, the cost was an additional $42.9 million. Since then, ACS has received three additional sole-source contracts that total $30 million for services up to 2009, the inspector general said.

The report concluded that the District incurred $11 million more in costs than it would have if the contracting office had solicited other bids. The city spent an additional $6.4 million more than necessary because it extended the contract for about 31 months after the original five-year agreement had expired.

Files documenting the action taken by the city to award the ticket-processing services were either incomplete or missing, which made it difficult for the inspector general's office to track the vendor's procurement history, the report noted.

D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), former head of the Committee on Public Works and the Environment, and former council member Kathy Patterson requested the audit.

"I was sure it would show, had the agencies of this government got their act together to do an open, competitive process, it would have saved the taxpayers money," Schwartz said. "We see there would have been huge savings."

Schwartz, who now chairs the council's government operations committee, plans to hold a hearing with the contracting office to emphasize the importance of competitive bids. She said the contracting office must begin soliciting bids now because the ACS agreement will expire in 2009.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company