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The Dripby Mark Reutter5:40 pmApr 4, 20120

Lawyer says lack of transparency hinders bidding on city contracts

An attorney representing Xerox Corp. said the opaque processes used to award government contracts in Baltimore are discouraging major companies from bidding.

“It is not in the city’s best interest to treat companies like the way it has in this case,” Robert Fulton Dashiell told the Board of Estimates today, arguing that the Bureau of Purchases did not properly explain why Xerox lost a $5 million contract to Digitech Computer Inc.

At issue is the processing and billing of the Fire Department’s ambulance and emergency medical services. Xerox subsidiary ACS, which describes itself as the world’s largest business process outsourcing company, held the contract for the last three years.

Dashiell charged that members of the panel that reviewed the bids made derogatory comments about ACS – “they said the provider was not competent” – which prejudiced its bid.

When ACS requested information on the award process through Maryland’s Public Information Act, material was withheld, he added.

“If you want major companies like Xerox to see Baltimore as a trusted place to do business, you got to provide transparency,” Dashiell told the spending board, led by City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (who was absent today, her place taken by Finance Director Harry Black).

“Nothing Out of Bounds”

Joseph Mazza, chief of purchasing, disputed Dashiell’s characterization of the dispute.

When ACS informed him of alleged prejudicial statements by two panel members, Mazza said he investigated and found “no unusual or untoward comments . . . nothing out of bounds for RFPs [Requests for Proposals].”

The purchasing chief said ACS was given an initial technical score of 75 – the minimum level to be considered a semi-finalist – while Digitech earned 93.

After each company gave their oral presentation to the review panel, ACS’s score dropped to 71, while Digitech stayed at 90.

The panel consisted of five members of the fire department and one member of the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology.

Asked if the fire department was satisfied with ACS’s performance on the current contract, Mazza said, “We did not find it to be incompetent.” He defended the technical scoring system, saying it was needed to assess bids evaluated on criteria other than lowest cost. “This process is designed to get the best result.”

On the motion of City Solicitor George Nilson, the board unanimously rejected the protest and awarded the contract to Digitech for $5 million. It will be in effect through March 2015, with five one-year renewals.

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