End Contract To Prove There Is One
Publicly bidding government contracts is more a matter of transparency than pricing. Although price competition is one objective of inviting all comers, it doesn’t always work out that way. When the type of required service or product produces a limited number of bidders, a government sometimes can do better, financially, through negotiation.
So, taxpayers expecting major savings might be disappointed if the Scranton School Board cancels its unbid bus contract with DeNaples Transportation and seeks bids to replace it.
But it should do so, anyway, because the district’s transparency deficit is just as bad as, and a director contributor to, the budget deficits that have prompted the state Department of Education to place it in financial recovery status.
State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale first pointed out the folly of the district’s unbid transportation contract about six years ago, to which the board responded by thumbing its nose at the audit and renewing the contract without bids. According to DePasquale, the board’s conduct has forced taxpayers to overpay for bus transportation by millions of dollars, including for an unwarranted fuel surcharge.
Naturally, DePasquale’s findings have produced vast public interest in the contract with the company, which is owed by politically influential Dunmore businessman Louis DeNaples. But the district has been unable to produce a valid copy of a contract.
DePasquale contends the state’s financial recovery designation enables the board to cancel the contract. Candis Finan, Ed.D., the state-appointed financial recovery officer, said recently that she will recommend that the board do so.
But board President Barbara Dixon, displaying an abundance of caution that her predecessors lacked when plunging into the deal, said she does not want to risk legal action.
But legal action, meaning a lawsuit by the contractor if the board cancels the deal, at least would force somebody to produce a contract and would elicit testimony regarding which board members or administrators, or both, were responsible for it.
Meanwhile, the board has taken no legal action of its own to recoup for taxpayers the overspending alleged by DePasquale.
When Finan recommends dumping the contract, Dixon and the entire board eagerly should comply and quickly seek bids for a new one.