Legislators – Help Close This Loophole

Guest Opinion

Legislators – Help Close This Loophole

I have found a consistent problem with my school district, Iowa City Community School District. Specifically a lack of competitive bidding policies pertaining to service contracts. For many years, in excess of 24, the ICCSD has used one vendor for its grounds maintenance. During this uninterrupted stretch, the District has no record of a second bid. Only one vendor, one bid, one contract. This year during a rebidding of the contract, there was a problem with an email to the Press-Citizen. To quote the Chief Operations Officer for the District, “the Press-Citizen was notified of the RFP, and a link was posted on our homepage. Unfortunately, something happened with the email to the Press-Citizen, so notification of the RFP never appeared in the newspaper. This is obviously unfortunate, but not a violation of law or policy.” Not a violation of law or policy. It should be a violation of the law and it should be policy that we publicly advertise. It should be obvious to everyone involved that public notification, through the newspapers as well as online, only serves the public good and encourages competition. Lack of notification or a competitive bidding process is how one company can have a monopoly on a service contract for 24 years. Additionally, the ICCSD is in a renovation and construction boom with 100 million dollars to spend in addition to PPEL and other funds. The District presently contracts with one architectural firm for the vast majority of our needs. The District has no idea what money can potentially be saved. Legislators should require service contracts by governmental entities to be meet the same standards for public improvement contracts (construction) (Iowa Code Section 26.3(1)) which requires any public improvement contract with an estimated cost of $125,000.00 or greater be advertised for sealed bids by publishing a notice to bidders. The notice to bidders shall be published at least once, not less than four (4) and not more than 45 days before the date for filing bids, in a newspaper published at least once weekly and having a general circulation in the geographic area served by the governmental entity. Governmental entities can adjust the monetary threshold lower if they wish but at a bare minimum this will help to protect taxpayers from governmental bodies who do not take their fiduciary responsibilities seriously. We are looking to stretch every dollar possible. There must be a mechanism that will force those who will not seek competition to do so. Taxpayers deserve it.

Phil Hemingway
Iowa City