This morning, the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee reviewed the recommendations of the Procurement Policies and Regulations Task Force and the Minority Owned and Small Business Task Force. In October 2014, I proposed creating these task forces to review and evaluate Montgomery County’s procurement process. One of the complaints I hear from business owners of all sizes is that it is too difficult to do business with the County. People say the process takes too long, there is too much paperwork, and there isn’t enough communication with the Procurement staff.
The reason I supported creating two separate task forces is that the issues raised by business owners about procurement generally fall into two distinct categories. The first category focuses on process. The amount of time it takes to complete a request for proposals (RFP) or not having a formal debrief process after a contract is awarded were issues that could be solved by developing a new process for interacting with bidders. The charge of the Procurement Policies and Regulations Task Force was to holistically review the procurement process and recommend changes that would help businesses compete for contracts in Montgomery County.
The second category of concern raised by business owners was how small, minority, female and disabled-owned businesses can compete for County contracts. The County received a Disparity Study last year that showed minority, female and disabled-owned businesses were “underutilized” in County procurement. Small business owners have expressed a variety of concerns about the way the Local Small Business Reserve Program has been implemented. The Minority Owned and Small Business Task Force was responsible for reviewing programs specifically designed to help small, minority, female and disabled-owned businesses in qualifying for County contracts.
Although we are now receiving these reports, the Council did not wait to begin improving procurement. This past March, the Council unanimously approved Expedited Bill 7-15, which was proposed by the County Executive, to create a standalone Office of Procurement within the Executive Branch. In June, the Council appointed former Councilmember Cherri Branson to lead that new office. During the FY16 Budget process (and reaffirmed during the FY16 Budget Savings Plan), the Council added staff to the compliance section of the Office of Procurement.