The Washington Post

D.C. youth job training contract slammed by appeals board

WAMU-FM’s Patrick Madden today highlights some smelly dealings in the city’s youth job training programs, noting how the nonprofit that won a recent contract solicitation appears to paying a related for-profit company hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees on top of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries it pays to the couple who runs both groups.

I’ve written a couple of times about this particular procurement, whose ongoing problems have now culminated in a ruling from the city’s Contract Appeals Board overturning the contract award to the nonprofit, Synergistic Inc., whose office is located in the Camp Springs building pictured above. The ruling, on an appeal filed by losing bidder Urban Alliance, is simply scathing.

It found that a city contracting officer, without explanation, gave Synergistic unusually high scores and Urban Alliance unusually low scores compared to an independent panel’s assessments of the same bidders. It also found “no consistent, discernible standard or approach” in awarding the contract to Synergistic and found “significant gaps in the record and unexplained inconsistencies” in the records supporting the decision. In sum, “the District failed to follow its own solicitation guidelines in clear violation of procurement law.”

James Staton Jr., the District’s procurement director, said in September the city “followed the book on this process.”

But the irregularities earned a special rebuke from the board’s chief judge, Marc D. Loud Sr., who noted this is the third straight solicitation for youth unemployment services that wasn’t up to par.

“I am hopeful that the alarm bells set off by this string of troublesome solicitations will now translate into decisive action by the District’s procurement professionals,” Loud wrote.

The board ordered Synergistic’s contract canceled and the contract bids rescored. Its decision did not address whether Synergistic’s compensation practices, as detailed in its nonprofit tax returns, are proper.

Synergistic principals Brian and Sabrae Derby weren’t answering questions when Urban Alliance first raised concerns, and it isn’t answering questions now. Reports Madden: “When asked about the tax records, [Brian Derby] refused to comment and slammed the door to his office.”

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.


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