Investigation Uncovers Irregularities in DC Speed Camera Contract
Washington, DC officials ignored legal procedures when awarding a multimillion dollar speed camera contract.

The Inspector General for the District of Columbia concluded earlier this month that the city ignored proper legal procedures when awarding a highly lucrative contract to run Washington's red light camera and speed camera program.

"Based on our review of contract file documentation, we determined that panel members made numerous mathematical, classification, omission, and category assignment errors on their respective initial proposal evaluation forms," the report explained. "A flaw in any component of the evaluation process places the District at risk for litigation, compromises the integrity of the evaluation process, and limits the District's ability to determine whether it is receiving the best value for the goods and services it procures."

DC officials decided in February 2006 to allow companies to bid against Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) for the right to issue tickets. DC's primary interest was to update existing equipment with newer cameras capable of issuing a higher volume of tickets. By June a city review panel decided that job could best be done by American Traffic Solutions (ATS), a smaller, more focused company. In December, ATS was awarded the contract worth $18.5 million over five years -- not counting "cost reimbursement" and "upgrades" that keep the arrangement from being truly flat-rate.

Investigators looked at the paperwork to determine on what basis the review panel made this selection. The probe found that many of the review panel's ratings appeared to be chosen at random or missing entirely, making it impossible for a neutral third-party to evaluate the decision-making process.

"A formal evaluation process provides the District and Office of Contracting and Procurement with a mechanism for demonstrating that they have impartially and fairly evaluated each offeror's proposal," the report stated. "Additionally, the evaluation process serves as the basis for the eventual award of a contract. Accordingly, it is critical that OCP provide oversight, formal instructions, and training to ensure that the technical panel and OCP staff perform the proposal evaluation in accordance with applicable regulations."

Despite the flawed process, the city insists it would have made the same decision even if it had followed all the appropriate contracting regulations. After losing the contract, ACS did not win any friends with its subsequent actions by reportedly sabotaging city equipment on the way out. ATS claimed that more than half of Washington's red light cameras and thirteen speed cameras had fallen into a state of disrepair by the time it had assumed control ( view allegations memo, 1.6mb PDF format). ATS has taken rival vendor Redflex to court in Arizona because it believes a statewide contract was illegally awarded (details).

A full copy of the inspector general report is available in a 700k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: Audit: Solicitation and Award of DC Automated Traffic Enforcement System Contract (Inspector General, District of Columbia, 11/20/2008)

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