The District government yesterday awarded more than $8 million of fuel oil contracts to minority-owned firms here.
Included in the contracts announced last night by D.C. General Services Director Sam Starobin was the largest city government purchase to date of commodities from a minority firm.
Mayor Walter Washington's administration has been under attack for an alleged lack of extensive aid to the minority business community, and yesterday's announcement came just one week before the city's primary election next Tuesday.
Involved in yesterday's contracts are purchases for fiscal year 1979, starting Oct. 1. The contracts are for 21 million gallons of No. 2 and No. 6 grade fuel oil to serve all D.C. facilities that use these grades.
According to Starobin, the contracts represent 80 percent of the city's fuel oil purchase expected in the coming fiscal year. The contracts were awarded under provisions of the city's Minority Contracting Act, which went into effect last year.
Starobin said his agency anticipates expanding the purchases from minority firms next year to cover all fuel oil and gasoline purchases, which would total about $17 million.
Contracts announced yesterday went to Tricentennial Energy Corp., for $6.2 million, the largest in D.C. history; and to Green Fuel Oil Co., for $1.8 million.
The two local minority companies were selected in a competitive bidding process. Five firms registered for fuel oil sales under the minority purchasing program and four submitted bids, Starobin stated.
Previously, the D.C. government purchased all fuel oil under a program administered by the U.S. General Services Administration. Talks aimed at awarding fuel sales to minority firms were held with federal officials but they said that under U.S. competitive bidding requirements, certain contracts could not be "set aside" only for minority firms, according to D.C. officials.
Therefore, Starobin added, the city decided to move ahead with its own contracting arrangements for minority businesses. In fiscal 1973, the city will continue to purchase the remainder of its fuel oil from GSA for about $3 million.
Starobin said his agency also is working on arrangements for purchases of other commodities from minority business. The largest previous contract to a minority firm for specific purchases was $2 million for computer equipment.
Under the city law, each government agency is required to work with a Minority Business Opportunity Commission to develop up to 25 percent of total dollar procurement from minority firms, under the set aside program. In the past, minority firms have been at a disadvantage in competitive price bidding for commodities and usually have not made bids.
Commenting on yesterday's announcement, in a formal statement issued by his press office, Mayor Washington said it is "a major step forward toward our goal of awarding up to 25 percent of total procurement dollar to minority firms." Procedures used will help identify "other substantial set aside arrangements for the purchase of commodities for the District government," he added.