County procurement process streamlined with focus on landing better contracts
By Risa Polansky
Businesses eyeing Miami-Dade County contracts now can avoid the tedious process of submitting and resubmitting paperwork.
The county's procurement department is offering potential vendors the chance to file affidavits once — at the time of vendor registration — rather than each time a business bids on a contract.
Procurement Management Director Miriam Singer called the process "more user-friendly for the business community.
"What we're trying to do is minimize the amount of bureaucracy," she said.
To bid on a contract, the county requires numerous affidavits, from certifying a drug-free workplace to making clear a company's domestic violence policies.
The new one-shot process — unveiled last month for goods and services bids and this month for design and construction contracts — is designed also to attract more vendors to the county, increasing competition and lowering prices.
"The simpler the process, the easier it might be for competition," Ms. Singer said. "And the more competition, the better value."
About 1,000 vendors have already submitted the paperwork, she said, "and we expect more."
More than 12,000 vendors are enrolled with the county now, 2,000 of them with active contracts.
With the new, streamlined policy, "we expect to be able to generate even more interest," Ms. Singer said.
Miami-Dade has worked to make life easier for hopeful contractors for years, she added.
Vendors are invited to monthly how-to workshops to ensure they are familiar with county processes.
They can elect to be e-mailed every time a contract fitting their areas of expertise becomes available.
The county offers "award sheets" detailing current contracts and pricing so vendors have a better idea of what the county might be looking for and whether they can compete.
Increasing competition also has been an ongoing effort.
Miami-Dade has reduced its non-competitive contracts by 22% during the past four years — from 37% to 15% — positioning the county to get better values, Ms. Singer said.
One commissioner questioned last week whether that truly happens.
"People who do business with the county screw us left and right," Commissioner Joe A. Martinez said during a discussion about extending a contract for transit maintenance.
When his mobile office needed repairs, he was able to get them done for three times less money than the least expensive county-contracted vendor quoted, he said, insisting the county "should be able to do it cheaper."
Ms. Singer said she is unfamiliar with the commissioner's experience and doesn't doubt it, but is confident in the county's efforts to secure the best deals for taxpayer dollars.
The county looks for value, she said — not simply cost, but also job quality.
"We do everything possible to get a very good deal — and that goes for best value."