Monday, September 20, 2010

Yes, Virginia, It Is a No-Bid Contract

The ongoing drama that Mayor Greg Ballard is creating by selling every municipal asset he possibly can seems to have hit a wall during the current scheme where his administration is attempting to sell off the city-county owned parking lots, meters, and garages. The city has created the illusion of competition in the bidding process when they asked for Request of Qualifications (RFQ) from those that are interested in running this asset. Even though the city has repeatedly referred to the RFQ submissions as “bids” in both the RFQ (here) and press releases (here), that is a mistake at best and a flat-out lie at worst.

If you view any of the RFQs, you’ll notice there is a start contrast between the RFQ and the final contract, which you can view here. Let’s take the so-called “winning bid” of Affiliated Computer Services/Dennison Parking and compare it to the contract that is currently being debated.

The RFQ that ACS/Dennison submitted does not resemble a “bid” in any way, shape or form. There are no hard numbers, no overall plan, or really anything that resembles a proposed bid or contract. Instead, it’s exactly the type of document that would be submitted for an RFQ. It explains why the two companies are qualified to manage the asset. It is, in short, a puff piece that makes ACS and Dennison look really good. The 15 other RFQs are also similar.

I have looked over every document at the Indy Gov Parking website and see no evidence of any type of bidding process. While Deputy Mayor Michael Huber claims to have been working on this scheme for several months, I believe it was a huge waste of time and tax payer dollars if he did. It seems like the city picked ACS/Dennison out of a pool when the other competitors weren’t seriously considered.

It’s important to keep in mind that the goal of privatization is to drive down the cost and improve the quality of service, which happens by introducing market competition. Competition is a key component in privatization efforts because when the government manages an asset, there is none. But conducting the illusion of a bidding war that results in a 50 year contract being handed to a politically connected company is not privatization, will not introduce market competition, will not reduce cost, and won’t improve the quality of service. Instead, it is just a monopoly that the government has blessed. And to think that there was any honest competition when a registered ACS lobbyist who also serves as Ballard's advisor (Barnes and Thornburg's Joe Loftus) is pure lunacy.

And finally, an update of sorts. I typed this post out earlier this morning. And before I clicked "Publish Post" on Blogger, I checked the Indy Gov Parking site to see two other bids from other companies. Apparently, the administration has learned that people don't inherently trust it. Kudos to the city for posting them. But they should've posted these bids the moment they paraded the ACS contract out, not several weeks later.


  1. Government contracts are big business for the select few who bid on them. In a lot of cases they do most or all their business with the government. And the RFQ (Request For Quotation) often leads to one vendor mysteriously and routinely being the sole applicant with all the correct answers/qualifications/prices.

    This occurs with such frequency that the term "wired for Company 'X'" was coined. You will find that it's hard to get in to being a gov't contractor because that other guy has the RFQ or RFP (Request For Proposal) 'wired' to his exact specifications all the time.

    Diana Vice (jeeze I hope I'm correctly attributing this to the right blogger) had a very detailed expose of such tomfoolery regarding a certain expensive type of roofing for a public school awhile back.

  2. When I was talking to my mother about this when the deal was first announced, she was not at all surprised that ACS got it.

    And Diana has been great at covering the township schools. She performs an excellent public service and her blog is worth reading even though I don't live in those townships that she covers.


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