The D.C. public school system wasted $1.2 million to $8.8 million by giving a security contract to a company that was the "least technically competent" and the most expensive of several bidders, according to a draft report by the D.C. inspector general.
The decision to award the three-year, $45.6 million contract to Watkins Security Inc. resulted from flaws in the procurement process and no "clearly articulated rational basis for the selection," according to the report, which was completed this week.
The contract has been the subject of close scrutiny since a student was shot inside Ballou Senior High in Southeast Washington in February. Elfreda W. Massie, who was then the interim school superintendent, acknowledged that the school system had failed to submit the contract to the D.C. Council for approval, as required by law. She said the error was made during the administration of Superintendent Paul L. Vance, who resigned in November.
School officials have since sent a contract to the council, but several council members have held up approval.
D.C. schools were closed yesterday because of the funeral of former president Ronald Reagan, and two schools spokeswomen did not return messages left on their cell phones.
An inspector general's report released in April said the school system probably paid the previous security contractor, MVM Inc., about $11.4 million more than necessary because of a lack of competitive bidding.
The draft report on the Watkins contract faulted a school system technical evaluation committee that reviewed five competing bids. The school security director failed to complete technical evaluation sheets, and an assistant principal's sheets included arithmetic errors, the report said. In addition, it concluded that the school contracting officer's methodology for evaluating the five offers was flawed.
The report also cited a lack of school board oversight. It said the board's facilities and finance committee did not formally approve the document, although it was charged with reviewing contracts of more $100,000.
The report said that the committee, which has since been dissolved, previously included school board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz and board members William Lockridge (District 4) and Mirian Saez, a mayoral appointee.
Mentioning the board members by title only, the report says that Lockridge signed off on the contract but could not remember what documents he reviewed. It says Saez "stated that she 'had the opportunity to review the Contract,' but would not indicate affirmatively whether she had or not."
Cafritz said she had never seen the contract before its award, according to the report.
Lockridge, Saez and Cafritz did not return phone calls last night.
Parent leaders said they were furious about the report's findings at a time when the school board has eliminated hundreds of jobs for budgetary reasons.
"The whole school system is incompetent," said Robin Porter, chairman of the Parent Teacher School Organization at Coolidge Senior High School in Northwest. "They waste money."
Watkins has provided security since last summer, and the school system has issued a series of short-term contracts with the company. However, the report said that Watkins provided security for 27 days last year without a contract being in place.
Staff writer Yolanda Woodlee contributed to this report.