Monday, December 08, 2008

McBride: And Another Thing!

From Matt McBride:

On Friday, I sent out a little something on the Nagin administration's upcoming "audit" of the city's municipal trash collection contracts. That audit appears to be very unlike a normal audit. It looks to be more of a public relations effort. You can read more here (thanks, Eli):
In composing that email, I neglected to point out something very obvious which should be part of the audit, but which, according to the webpage of one of the companies performing it, will likely be avoided.
As you know the Sewerage & Water Board collects the trash payments from city residents and small business owners for their municipal trash pickup as part of the monthly water bill. So there should be an easily accessible list of places getting billed for trash services. Thus, the audit should be simply comparing those billing records against the trash companies' address lists to determine irregularities and duplicate billings. Of course, that doesn't appear to be happening.
WWL-TV's Katie Moore looked into this and did a comparison of the two sets of records a couple of weeks ago. On November 28th, they aired the following report:
4 Investigates: Is the city being overbilled for trash pick-up?
In there, Ms. Moore pointed out a huge discrepancy:
"According to records requested from the Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, obtained by Eyewitness News, an average of 68,000 homes are billed each month for the city sanitation fee, but the city has been paying to pick up trash at more than 104,000 homes."
Yes, you read that right. A difference of 36,000 between billed households and households the companies claim they are servicing. Of course that 104,000 number is not the actual number of households, as I pointed out yesterday and as Ms. Moore also highlighted in her story. It comes from the city estimates that were in the bid solicitations. But even taking that into account (i.e. 2500 duplicates, and determining the actual number of unique addresses), there's still a difference of well over 30,000 addresses between the S&WB and contractor lists.
Of course, the provenance on those contractor address lists is also questionable, which is probably one of the reasons the address lists are not being used for the Nagin audit. What I mean is that many of them likely did not exist when the audit began in August. The "date of creation" field on most of the Excel spreadsheets containing Metro's monthly address lists for the last two years was from November of this year. Is it any wonder the Nagin audit is effectively making up new address lists?
Finally, here's one more rather outstanding irregularity with these contracts. The text of the bid specifications for Metro's contract (found here: http://www.box.net/shared/55z3zyxtdv), which is incorporated into the contract, calls for 100% performance and payment bonds:

"2. Bonds: At the Contractor’s expense, the Contractor shall maintain performance and payment bonds acceptable to the City during the Agreement life:

A. The Performance Bond shall issue in the sum of 100 percent of the Total Estimated Annual Agreement Amount as revised from year to year to secure the faithful performance of the Agreement in all respects.

[...]

B. The Payment Bond shall issue in the sum of 100 percent of the Total Annual Agreement Amount to secure the payment of all subcontractors, materials suppliers, and other accounts payable in connection with the contract, and otherwise according to Louisiana Revised Statute Title 38:2241."

Metro's bid was for $8,712,000 per year. But in the main text of the contract, their performance and payment bonds are each for only 50% of that amount. I find that very odd.

These contracts are an absolute mess. And the "audit" won't be much better. There's duplicate addresses, cruddy administration, phony auditing, and massive holes down which there are being poured millions of dollars. The citizens of New Orleans deserve much better than this.
Matt McBride

1 comment:

mominem said...

I am paying the sanitation fee on my house and not getting garbage pickup. I have tried several times to get a "free" can and can't get one delivered.