Acting on allegations of illegal procurement practices by the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) in the purchasing of heating system maintenance and repair work, the Office of the Inspector General reviewed 23 heating system maintenance and repair contracts awarded by the BHA between 1989 and 1996. Office staff also interviewed officials from several BHA departments and received information from two confidential informants.

FINDINGS

This Office made the following findings regarding the procurement and oversight of these BHA contracts:

Finding 1. The BHA awarded seven contracts based on price quotations that appear to have been falsified.

Finding 2. The BHA approved a $30,000 no-bid change order to a $20,630 contract.

Finding 3. The BHA's lax contract oversight led to frequent contract overpayments on the Central Office contract.

Finding 4. The BHA failed to procure major repairs cost-effectively.

Finding 5. The BHA's contract specifications were too vague to permit vendors to bid realistic prices.

Finding 6. The BHA's lax contract oversight led to contract overpayments on the Fairmount and Gallivan contract.

Finding 7. The BHA used emergency procurement procedures to award six contracts that should have been advertised and bid.

Finding 8. The BHA did not fully comply with statutory emergency procurement procedures.

Finding 9. The BHA awarded six nearly identical $25,000 emergency contracts, thereby avoiding legally mandated state approval.

Finding 10. The BHA's open-ended contract specifications prevented meaningful price competition.

Finding 11. The BHA obtained a $26,535 quotation for repair work and then awarded the work through four purchase orders, thereby evading bidding requirements.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The Inspector General's review yielded the following recommendations to the BHA and other public agencies, cities, and towns contracting for maintenance and repair work:

Recommendation 1. Ensure that procurements are legal and competitive.

Recommendation 2. Issue clear and detailed contract specifications.

Recommendation 3. Solicit fixed-price bids for major repairs.

Recommendation 4. Institute a reliable, centralized record-keeping system for all contracts.

Recommendation 5. Institute effective contract oversight practices.

Recommendation 6. Prepare a multi-year facilities management plan for capital upgrades and replacement of heating systems.

The BHA's written response to a confidential draft of this report is included as an appendix to this report.