U.S. figure skater Ashley Wagner gained notoriety by ripping into the judges at the just-concluded Sochi Winter Olympics. Whatever one thinks of the sport or its judging, the angst comes from its subjectivity. A score appears, someone’s fate is sealed and no one really understands how it all came about.
Certain Miami-Dade County decisions on Requests For Proposals (RFPs) seem to be generating the same level of angst. One example, the four-year, $57 million contract to provide security guard services to MetroRail, MetroMover and Miami-Dade’s bus service (RFP No. 864 – Security Guard Services for Miami- Dade Transit).
Since the onset of MetroRail until 2009, Wackenhut was the provider of these services. There was significant controversy regarding purported over-billing and other issues. Ultimately, a new procurement process came to pass and locally owned 50 State Security was awarded the contract.
Fast-forward four years and a new RFP is currently in play for these same servic- es. Locally owned 50 State Security was one of the three finalists selected from a dozen interested companies, the other two being Pennsylvania-based AlliedBarton, and G4S Secure Solutions USA, whose parent is UK-based G4S, the company that purchased Wackenhut several years ago.
Yet 50 State Security was not invited to participate in what is called Best & Final Offer (BAFO), the last step in negotiating a contract with Miami-Dade County. Why? Because of subjective elements in the procurement scoring process.
50 State received the lowest technical score from those scoring the responses to the proposals in spite of high performance marks and references. Does this sound like Olympic figure skating judging? Their pricing was 10 percent less than the closest competitor by more than $6 million, yet they received the lowest score for pricing (also because of subjectivity in the scoring).
These subjective steps shut out a locally owned incumbent who, by the county’s own written assessment, has been doing an excellent job. Ironically, if this specific procurement process had any incentive within its criteria for locally headquartered companies, something that is quite common, this editorial would more than likely never have been written. Public records submitted by 50 State Security show that crime incidents on the rail are down 43 percent and they completed six county audits over the span of their engagement with “no negative findings or observations.”
The recommendation of AlliedBarton has, not unexpectedly, been challenged by both 50 State Security and G4S Secure Solutions USA. While we do not advocate free rides for anyone (no pun intended), we are troubled that a locally owned company can be circumvented by the procurement process without the opportunity to negotiate with Miami-Dade County. The cost to Miami-Dade of shifting from the incumbent is substantial, as both AlliedBarton and G4S would have significant start-up costs at the tax payer’s expense.
50 State Security should not receive any special consideration whatsoever in an objective procurement process (although many would say that as a locally owned business, it should). And had their performance over the past four years been poor, this would be a moot point. But 50 State Security did perform well, according to numerous Miami-Dade County formal reports. And even after what was deemed as the best and final offers by the two outof- state companies, 50 State’s price was still the lowest. So what’s keeping them out of the negotiation process? A subjective scoring process.
The results of this RFP go for consideration before the Miami-Dade County Commission in a few weeks. While cumbersome to Miami-Dade County, the results and recommendations should be dismissed by the commission and a new, truly objective procurement process should be established in its place.
No company, and especially not a locally owned company that has performed well, should be penalized because of a nebulous scoring process that allows for way too much subjectivity, even from wellintentioned judges. Keep it fair or we may see companies bringing Ashley Wagner to a Miami-Dade Commission meeting.