D.C. failing to properly monitor some city contracting

Local,DC,Eric P. Newcomer

The Department of Small and Local Business Development has just one enforcement agent monitoring the city's program aimed at helping local businesses land D.C. construction contacts.

Brendon Miller, director of public affairs for the department, told The Washington Examiner on Monday that the department only a single employee working to ensure that businesses adhere to Certified Business Enterprise agreements.

"Is there enough happening in compliance monitoring?" Miller asked. Answering his own question, he said, "The answer is no."

Knowing that, a new report by the city's auditor's office should not come as much of a surprise. It found that 168 out of 247 private development projects with CBE agreements with the city did not filed expenditure reports in fiscal year 2012. That leaves the city with a significantly diminished ability to dole out the appropriate penalties to companies violating requirements of the program, which earns the businesses preferential treatment in getting city contracts, or to assess the program's impact on the local economy.

The Department of Small and Local Business Development has not assessed any penalties for violations of Certified Business Enterprise agreements, according to the auditor's report.

"Penalties vary between CBEAs, but they are often up to 25% of the total CBE expenditure goal, which in some cases amounts to possible penalties of over $1 million," the report reads.

Miller did not contest the report's findings.

"The data that ... D.C.'s auditors used is all from our online system," he said.

The report renewed a call made in reports dating back to 2010 for the department to "verify the status of the projects and establish standard procedures for notifying [the auditor's office] of the status of construction projects."

Miller says the department plans to improve its enforcement efforts. It has begun to publish job openings, he said.

"We're going to be adding 10 new people to do compliance monitoring," Miller said. "We'll be adding people this year."

The report also found that fewer than half of developers with CBE agreements had met with the city auditor's office as required.

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