Yikes: Lowest Bidder No Longer the Federal Mandate for State DOT Engineering Contracts

In today’s must-read-as-always Political Scene, the ProJo’s Kathy Gregg reports that RIDOT spent $41.7 million in 2015 on outside consultants. RIDOT Director and former Laborers International official Peter Alviti was undoubtedly thrilled to point out that this was roughly $5 million lower than the prior year. (Sure, because they want that spending brought in-house and returned to unionized public employees. Not to mention that $5 million will be a drop in the budget in the budget of a department whose spending is about to explode from Governor Raimondo’s onerous, highly damaging, completely unnecessary tolls.)

Further in the article, however, Alviti points out that

“Federal law requires that engineering firms be hired based on most qualified, rather than low price or overhead rate,” Alviti said Friday, in an email. “It is much like selecting a physician for a complicated operation — seeking the one with the most expertise rather than the one with the lowest price.”

“Most expertise”? “Most qualified”? The main point here is that it is alarming and definitely bad for the taxpayer for government to move away from the standard of “lowest (qualified) bidder” when it comes to public contracts. But there is also the concern that “most qualified” would seem leave room for an unwelcome eye-of-the-beholder element rather than a more objective one. What constitutes “most qualified”? True industry standards? Or will federal officials incorporate irrelevant, feel-good, politically correct elements into their official definition of “qualified”, thereby moving away from both cost-effectiveness and, potentially, safety?

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