RFP (a way to go or a costly nuisance?)

Request for proposal (RFP) is a process 1) to allow new vendors to do business with the county; 2) allows the county to select vendors based on their qualifications; and 3) by releasing RFPs periodically, vendors performance may improve because of competition. This was the thinking that Janice had when she first recommended that the County Board have a policy discussion on RFPs a good government practice or a nuisance? In the area of Property Management, the procurement process includes RFPs; it makes sense and has worked well. Other departments that are heavy in services, do not strictly follow the process. At Public Health's first committee meeting, Janice, Committee Chair, suggested that maybe "we ought to RFP the Community Clinic services." In Community Human Services (CHS), the RFP process is almost non-existent because of state statutory exemption. At the Board meeting of April 13, CHS addressed contracting for services and the RFP process. Because of statutory exemption and the difficulty of finding providers for certain services, e.g., developmentally disabled, mentally ill, homeless, the RFP process was dropped. Tom Fashingbauer, Director, CHS said, "When the Human Services Department began contracting, our program staff had to seek out, convince, and personally help private agencies to develop the types of services we needed." That is what has happened from the 1960s to the 90s. Now Janice and other Board members are asking to revisit the way of doing business with the county. The hard questions: Has the county built a contracting system that excludes start-up providers; a system that allows providers such a comfort level that perhaps services have become routine; and a system that defies outcome measurement? According to the documentation, in 1999 there are 421 human service contracts. An average of fifteen contracts a year have significant performance issues that are addressed by the CHS. Approximately five contracts a year are recommended for termination. Is the Board asking too much to revisit a 1992 policy? Janice is asking for a balanced playing field where new providers have an opportunity to participate. She said, "The United Way plan is a good approach. A step by step process, with the fundamental that quality of service is the selection criteria; no one has a 'lock' on services. Citizens without self-interest ought to be making the selections." In addition, Janice wants to make sure that the county gets the most for its dollar, and that the quality of service is the best that's obtainable.

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