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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Council Establishes Stronger Oversight of City Contracts

On Thursday, June 17th, the Providence City Council voted in favor of an ordinance that provides greater oversight of the City’s Board of Contract and Supply (Providence’s purchasing board). Councilman John J. Igliozzi, the Finance Committee Chairman and sponsor of the legislation, explained that the ordinance establishes a requirement that City contracts to hire private contractors, vendors, and consultants, must be approved by the Council.

Under the new law, certain expenditures that were previously reviewed only by the Board of Contract and Supply will now require the approval of the full City Council. Currently, the Board of Contract and Supply has the authority to grant contracts and leases for multiple years, amend contracts to add significant additional cost to the City, and approve millions of dollars in contracts with no additional oversight. The new ordinance will require Council approval of certain types of spending, including multi-year contracts and leases, contracts totaling more than $500,000, and leases totaling more than $200,000. 

“This ordinance creates accountability, and establishes effective checks and balances,” said Igliozzi. He added that, “The ordinance brings the City’s purchasing and contract-award practices fully into the public realm, allowing for openness and greater scrutiny.”

He continued, “Before the City authorizes the expenditure of significant amounts of the taxpayers’ money, we must be sure we’ve done all we can keep the cost of government as low as possible. This extra check on the Board of Contract and Supply will provide a valuable safeguard against excessive and unnecessary City spending.”

Indeed, Igliozzi believes that the Council could save Providence taxpayers millions of dollars, stating that, “By enacting this ordinance, the Council is clamping down on the runaway costs often associated with the private contractors and vendors the City hires.” He pointed to provisions in the new ordinance that require Council approval of (1) any amendments to contracts that significantly increase the cost to the City; (2) any contract that did not go to bid because the Board of Contract and Supply deemed one vendor the “sole source,” meaning that it is believed that no other vendor is able to provide the service in question; and (3) any extension beyond one year or $100,000 of an original contract agreement.

“In these tough times, we all need to tighten our belts,” said Igliozzi. “This is just one way the Council is looking inward to cut costs and save taxpayer dollars.”

Upon introduction at the June 3rd Council meeting, the ordinance received a great deal of support, with five other Council members signing on with Igliozzi as co-sponsors.

The Council will vote for second and final passage of the ordinance at the July 1st Council meeting.