Miami Oks Prequalification For Construction Contractors
By Eric Kalis
Frustrated by delays and cost overruns in Department of Capital Improvement projects, Miami commissioners gave the department the go-ahead Tuesday to implement a pre-qualification program for construction contractors.
The commission, in a 4-0 vote with Chairman Angel Gonzalez absent, created a revolving pool of qualified contractors for capital improvement projects to ensure that the city does business with credible companies in a timely way. While the program’s specifics have yet to be ironed out by the department, new director Ola Aluko told commissioners that only reputable contractors with proven track records will make the cut.
"While the criteria itself is not written, there are certain factors we will look at," Mr. Aluko said. "Generally, when a company increases its bonding capacity, that tells you they have done quite a few jobs and satisfied the performance requirements of [bonding agencies]. A list of the number of jobs done and the types of jobs along with word of mouth within the industry" will be considered.
The emphasis on weeding out bad contractors comes shortly after 11 department staffers were arrested on corruption charges. While the pre-qualification program is not a direct result of the recent troubles, Mr. Aluko said, it will help the department strengthen oversight and accountability for projects.
Establishing clear pre-qualification criteria should also give more local contractors opportunities to build relationships with the department, Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said. The program should be "inclusionary to the locals," he said.
When a primary contractor delegates some of the work on a project to a subcontractor, city officials have a tougher time keeping tabs on the project’s progress, said Gary Fabrikant, assistant capital improvements director. The pre-qualification program will include analysis of any subcontractors a company hires, Mr. Fabrikant said.
"One reason the program was created is to allow the city to look closely at any company in advance so we have time to look at the financial record, claims against the company and how much it pays subcontractors and workers," he said. "A chief component we are finishing is a software program for performance evaluation. Each contractor will be evaluated once or twice during a project and after any major issue comes up."
Instead of extensively reviewing records of subcontractors hired by construction companies, the city should prohibit primary contractors from bringing in subcontractors altogether, said Commissioner Joe Sanchez. "We need to focus on making sure the pre-qualified contractors do the work themselves," Mr. Sanchez said. The city "faced obstacles [in past projects] from subcontractors not performing."
While some projects are too large in scope for companies to avoid hiring subcontractors, the department will include the performance of subcontractors in its evaluation, Mr. Fabrikant said. "We developed this program to be proactive," he said. "If our rating of a contractor is not satisfactory and they do not improve, [the contractor] will be permanently out of the city."