Alameda County relies on hundreds of vendors to supply it with goods and services to ensure it can effectively serve county residents. While the General Services Agency (GSA) develops the county government’s overall procurement policy, most purchasing and contracting decisions are made individually by each of the county’s 21 agencies and departments. Currently, if a vendor defrauds the county or does not competently provide services, there is no policy barring it from obtaining future contracts, no centralized reporting mechanism to share evaluations of vendors, and no requirement that vendors be evaluated at all. This is uncommon in government and ignores best practices. Since written evaluations are not required to monitor a vendor’s performance, nor is there a way to share vendor evaluations, the county is at risk of contracting with underperforming vendors/contractors.
In 2012 the Grand Jury recommended establishing vendor evaluations. Five years later GSA has finally begun a pilot evaluation program and discussed establishing a debarment policy. The solution is simple, if elusive: GSA should establish a vendor evaluation program where the data are connected to a contract database, and establish a debarment policy.
Adopting a county-wide vendor evaluation and debarment policy is consistent with the county’s effort to establish a system of results-based accountability for contractors providing goods and services on behalf of Alameda County. Ensuring that vendors are held accountable for their performance and having policies in place to bar them if they are defrauding the county will be cost effective and will aid in efforts to serve those most in need.
In spite of two previous Grand Jury recommendations to establish vendor-evaluation policies and the county’s acknowledgment of those issues, no formal policies have been implemented.
Without a comprehensive vendor-evaluation program, county departments are not sufficiently warned when existing vendors perform poorly or even defraud the county.
The county’s failure to adopt a debarment policy has exposed county departments to organizations and businesses that have defrauded the county in the past.