The needler in the haystack.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

No-bid contracts: A lesson for Plainfield?


No-bid contracts are subject to waste, fraud and abuse.
 
From its first days, the administration of Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs
has shown an inclination for awarding juicy contracts on a no-bid basis.

Though the appearance of heavy campaign contributors among those awarded contracts has raised eyebrows, it is all perfectly legal in New Jersey.

The Council, however, has not been happy with the continued reliance on this method (as opposed to open public bidding).

The opportunities for fraud, waste and abuse through the use of no-bid contracts ought to be obvious on a moment's reflection.

2012 saw prominent exposure of the dangers of same with the arrest, trial and conviction of John Bencivenga, mayor of Hamilton Township (read a review of his rise and fall here), for extortion and money laundering in relation to no-bid insurance contracts for the school district. The story includes a number of other employees and officials who were mired in -- and subsequently dragged down by -- the scandal.

Last night, at its reorganization meeting, the Hamilton Board of Education took steps to avoid future entanglement in such scandals by declining to renew the contract of the law firm which had advised it throughout the period of the insurance fees scandal (see Times of Trenton story here).

At the same time, board members expressed interest in bringing even more potential contracts under the public bidding process by lowering the bid floor from the state's limits.

Is there a lesson for Plainfield in all this?

I think so.

While those intent on gaming any system can find ways to do so -- even with public bidding of contracts -- open public bidding is the best way we have of ensuring that the public's interest prevails in having the best possible services and goods delivered at a fair and competitive price without waste, fraud or abuse.

Neither the City's reorganization last Thursday nor the Board of Ed's reorganization this evening touches on the kind of contracts -- for example, legal, engineering and insurance -- that have led to such abuses. That will no doubt come later.

But this is the perfect opportunity for Plainfield to learn a lesson from the hard luck of another town and move away from no-bid contracts to open public bidding.




-- Dan Damon [follow]



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4 comments:

Bob said...

Maybe we need to call our mayor, Lucky Sharon, as she has avoided having her shady dealings being investigated by the prosecutor. You would think any honest politician would want to avoid even of hint of impropriety. The words honest and politician are seldom heard in the same breath any place in this country and in Plainfield even more so.

Alan Goldstein said...

Then there's the privately bid contract such as the one received by PMUA Alternate Commissioner Cecil Sanders to deconstruct a building on Leland, from which he could pocket about 30% of the contract value without doing a thing. First, he's put on the PMUA Board. A few weeks later he's handed the contract. A few weeks after that, acting as if he's been burdened for years by PMUA arbitration with its two executive quitters, he's handing them about $750,000. The fix is in and the joke's on us.

Anonymous said...

Bob, those that have been around knows that the Union Prosecutor over Plainfield is worth $.02. Heard he was retiring, maybe just maybe the next individual will do their job to/in Justice.

Anonymous said...

How about the Plainfield Board of Ed? This has been long standing practice.But here is the twist watch newly elected Board President
Campbell privatize support staff and deliver contract to local resident.