Harford County Initiates Measures To Address Disparity In Government Contract Allocation Following Independent Study
HARFORD COUNTY - Last week, Harford County released the findings of an independent review assessing the distribution of county government contracts. The study, commissioned in 2022, found potential disparities between the number of minority contractors able to carry out the work and those awarded contracts.
The study was commissioned in line with nationwide efforts to scrutinize potential bias in public contract allocation following the City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. case.
According to the study, the county's attempts to increase the utilization of minority and women-owned businesses (M/WBE) through targeted race and gender-neutral measures have been ineffective. The study recommended a broader and more varied set of policies, including some based on race and gender, to achieve this goal.
Conducted by Griffin & Strong P.C. of Atlanta, GA, the study surveyed 231 business owners and found that 61.9% were certified as minority, woman, disadvantaged, or small businesses. Of those not certified, 34.1% said they needed help understanding the certification process.
Further, the study revealed that one-third of the businesses were not registered with eMaryland Marketplace, an online registry that lists vendors interested in county projects.
A range of barriers for M/WBEs were also identified, including limited knowledge of the County's procurement policies, the size and cost of contracts, excessive paperwork, competition with larger firms, and informal networks of prime and subcontractors monopolizing the public contracting process.
In response to the study, County Executive Bob Cassilly offered several solutions to improve the number of M/WBEs receiving government contracts.
"When I took office six months ago, I acknowledged the need for improvement in contract awards for minority and women-owned businesses. Steps have already been taken, and additional actions from the study's recommendations are being planned to remove barriers and facilitate full participation," Cassilly said.
1). Encouraging vendors to register with eMaryland Marketplace Advantage to enhance bidding opportunities and to certify their minority status with MDOT to improve access to minority preferences.
2). Unbundling contracts by amount and scope to increase bidding opportunities for smaller and/or minority-owned businesses.
3). Developing vendor contact events to encourage dialogue between vendors and County agencies and provide a forum for educating minority vendors about procurement policies, procedures, and bidding processes.
4). Increasing our outreach through collaboration with local business organizations and internal research to identify new and existing minority-owned businesses.
5). Providing advance notice of upcoming bid opportunities when feasible.
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