Procurement at the US city of Albuquerque has come under fire after the purchase of a fleet of buses failed to meet expectations.
A report by the Office of the Inspector General into the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) project warned the city to exercise due diligence in the future when awarding contracts to companies that are “untested and pose more than a reasonable risk”.
The city selected a Chinese company, Build Your Dreams (BYD), to supply at least 20 electric articulated buses.
While the buses were due to be delivered last year, only 15 have been received so far. The city plans to send back several buses due to manufacturing defects.
The city’s procurement was criticised because the committee which evaluated contract proposals was composed of high-level officials and deputy directors.
The inspector said it would have been useful to have members of city commissions from county or state agencies, which have similar services, to evaluate the bids.
The report said the city should adopt stricter rules for contractors and suppliers, while the actions of some staff involved in the procurement process gave rise to ethics and impartiality concerns.
For example nearly all city inspectors had enjoyed hospitality such as meals courtesy of the Chinese company.
“A senior official at BYD purchased at least one meal for almost all inspectors and even twice for one inspector,” said the report.
“While the value of the meal from the point of view of the inspector may have been de minimis, the value of funds expended by the BYD official were significantly more in the aggregate and furthermore, blurs the line of avoiding even the appearance of impartiality in the inspection process.”
The report said the inspection process of the bus assembly lacked rigour and that inspectors were not given formal training or an inspection checklist which would have enabled them to carry out consistent and effective inspections.
And the inspector general said that while no instances of fraud were found that did not mean fraud did not occur.
He complained that due to severe resource limitations the inspection was limited in scope and time available. Some topics were deliberately not addressed due to resource constraints.
The report also criticised the fact that the first bus delivered was used for a public relations event rather than to assess and determine if it complied with specifications.
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.