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Evaluating Government Contracts in California Needs to be Holistic to be Effective

The IT Alliance for Public Sector (ITAPS) recently sent a letter outlining our concerns with California’s A.B. 1546, a bill that would create a statutory mandate for the California Department of Technology (CDT) to develop a standardized contractor performance assessment to evaluate the performance of a contractor on certain information technology (IT) projects. While we support the need for accountability by all contractors that provide goods and services to the state to ensure an equitable competitive market, this measure is unnecessary because of ongoing efforts within CDT to achieve this goal.

Instead, we urge legislators to let those initiatives take root and flourish, and take pause before rushing through arbitrary measures that fall short of the evaluating public contracts.

Our primary concern is the lack of balance in the evaluation to include all parties to a project. Any vendor performance evaluation that is focused solely on a contractor’s performance is one-sided and will not represent a holistic view of a project’s successes or challenges, nor be a reliable indicator of future contract performance.

For example, there is nothing in the bill requiring an assessment of the state and its agency’s performance, which we believe is necessary to determine if actions by the state contributed to nonperformance, cost overruns, or delayed project implementation. The bill also does not address key factors, such as how well the state: (1) articulated the business and performance needs and desired outcomes of a project; (2) developed a strong procurement strategy or plan, particularly for a complex procurement, and; (3) was able to competently and timely staff, fund, and execute the state’s responsibilities associated with the project.

There are also valid concerns about whether the bill is redundant, as it duplicates existing mechanisms and efforts already underway by CDT. In fact, a similar measure was vetoed in 2015 by Gov. Jerry Brown because of these same concerns. In his veto message, the governor stated that placing this requirement in statute would duplicate ongoing efforts within CDT, an endeavor which ITAPS continues to work on with the state to ensure there are effective, 360-degree reviews of technology projects.

ITAPS member companies are firmly committed to helping ensure that the state implements IT projects that perform well so Californians can benefit from the innovations and efficiencies that innovation delivers. While we fully understand that assessing the performance of a vendor is a fair and needed element of project implementation, this additional statutory requirement is not necessary and could impede achieving that goal, compelling us to respectfully oppose passage of the proposal.

Public Policy Tags: Public Sector