Which Questions MTA Giving 99% of Vendors Passing Grade
As Part of Continuous Improvement, MTA Must Reassess How it Evaluates Vendors and Encourage More Competition for Contracts
Reinvent Albany thanks the MTA Inspector General’s (MTA IG) office for examining MTA vetting of contractors through their existing performance evaluation process. The MTA IG’s recent audit brings to light the fact that fewer than 1% of contractors have been given “unsatisfactory” scores through the MTA’s All-Agency Contractor (ACE) evaluation process. These ratings determine the ability of contractors to seek future business with the agency. Further, the report found that there are existing MTA vendors which have been rated as “satisfactory” yet are underperforming.
While it is encouraging that the MTA has committed to rolling out a new evaluation system in the third quarter of 2021, this will not address the root problem of a lack of competition for MTA contracts. With more vendors competing for MTA contracts, the MTA will have more choices and this may reduce the incentives to overrate vendor performance.
Additionally, while the MTA had begun to look at ways to reduce costs and increase competition for MTA contracts through its Board task forces on Cost Containment and Procurement, it is unclear to what degree this work has continued through the COVID-19 emergency. The MTA and the MTA IG should continue to examine the lack of competition for contracts and work to determine the factors that impede the authority’s ability to attract and retain new vendors.
One factor is the MTA’s debarment policy. Debarment for MTA contractors was required by the 2019 state budget and initially implemented in a draconian manner to mandate debarring of contractors under certain conditions. This has shifted risk from the MTA to vendors, and has served to increase the “MTA premium” for contracts. In turn, this has increased costs for the MTA.
Another way to shed light on the MTA’s contracting process is to create a database of contracts on the MTA website, as recommended in Reinvent Albany’s Open MTA report. This database should include open data with greater information about the MTA’s contracts, including vendors and contractors, initial and current costs, bidding processes, and contract amendments. This will allow MTA stakeholders, the press, academics, and those charged with overseeing the MTA, like the state legislature and MTA IG’s office, greater insight into the contracting process and ways to improve it.