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November 4, 2013

Nutter administration tightening checks on city construction bidders

The Nutter administration says it is improving the screening of companies that bid for construction contracts, after one contractor at the airport was caught fudging the facts on his bid.

Philadelphia inspector general Amy Kurland says the contractor, John Hart of Hart Enterprises, misrepresented himself on a bid for restroom renovation work at the airport between 2011 and 2012.

“They (Hart’s firm) did not disclose that there was a prior conviction, that there were negative judgments, that there were outstanding liens, and that the company owed back taxes,” she said today.

The contracts were eventually canceled, but not before Hart’s firm was paid $275,000 by the city.

Kurland says the Philadelphia DA’s office is now pursuing criminal charges against the firm.

In the big picture, though, she says the case highlighted failings in the way the city screens firms that bid for such jobs.

“There was nothing in place to independently check the accuracy of these questionnaires,” she noted. “There was no city process in place for anybody to do those pre-qualification checks.”

So the Hart case, Kurland says, has already prompted internal changes among the departments that deal with such contracts.

“What we’re recommending is prevention steps at each part of the contracting process. Whether it’s at the time of the bid, at the time of the award, during performance, or before payment: we’re recommending checks at each of those stages,” she said.

Kurland is optimistic the new procedures will weed out fraudulent contractors.

“There’s always going to be fraud,” she acknowledged, “but the more checks that we have, the more likely we are to prevent it.”

Source: CBSPhilly