The D.C. Department of Human Services generally followed proper procedures in awarding a controversial school drug counseling contract, although there were some "irregularities" in the evaluation of bids, according to a draft report prepared by D.C. Auditor Otis H. Troupe's office.

Troupe examined the department's award of a $617,220 contract to Decision Information Systems Corp. (DISC) after school board member R. Calvin Lockridge (Ward 8) charged that the contract was "wired" as a "political favor" to company Chairman John Clyburn. The city agency was forced to cancel the contract in late April after a D.C. Board of Education committee refused to accept the company's services.

Troupe said in the draft report that the department erred in comparing DISC's bid to partial bids from other firms. A total of 12 firms responded to the department's request for bids, but only DISC and one other firm bid on all four components of the program. The department should have evaluated the bids for each component separately, Troupe said. "The first evaluation process was flawed," the draft audit states.

DISC won two components of the program -- student assessment and peer counseling -- on the basis of the initial comparison. The department awarded the third and fourth components to two other firms after soliciting a "best and final offer" from each bidder.

The audit said the department might have saved significant amounts of money by going back for a "best and final" offer on the two components that were awarded to DISC.

Furthermore, the audit said the department "would have been able to avoid charges of favoritism, contract fraud or any other impropriety" if it had used the same evaluation process for awarding each component.

Troupe also noted that department documents show the contract period beginning in early March, although the contracts were not authorized until late March. "The DHS practice of backdating the effective contract award dates in these cases is questionable without explanation," the audit said.

Nonetheless, the audit concluded, "The Department of Human Services' actions in this matter were in accordance with procurement procedures."