CITY OFFICIALS seem to be taking steps to restore confidence in the minority contracting program. That's the word from Maudine Cooper, executive director of the city's Minority Business Opportunity Commission. The program directs 35 percent of the city's business to minority firms. But some other minority firms have charged that the program is ridden with political favoritism. An FBI investigation into certain city contracts is continuing, and some members of Congress want a law passed to prevent the city from offering sole-source contracts.
At this point the commission can't even provide a list of minority firms that always fulfill contracts on time and within their budgets. Many minority firms do perform well, but the record-keeping has been poor. City officials now say they're setting up a computerized performance-evaluation system that will tell them quickly how well or how poorly any firm bidding for a contract has performed in the past.
Another problem: There are still no standard procedures for rating performances during contracts. City officials say they want to identify and assist firms that are struggling but that can, with help, do the job. Those that can't or refuse help will be dropped; those that misrepresent their capabilities will be tagged too.
Management of the city's minority contracting program has been a major source of trouble in the past. The additional information that officials now say they will be gathering should provide the city government what it needs to strengthen its program. For far too long, the lack of precise details has hampered efforts to pinpoint shortcomings -- and do something about them.