CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The City of Charlotte is pledging to tighten up its processes to ensure certified minority, women and small businesses enterprises (MWSBEs) get a fair shot at government work.
The changes are a direct result of a WCNC Charlotte investigation earlier this month.
During the Charlotte City Council meeting Monday night, the city manager shared his commitment to immediately addressing what WCNC Charlotte uncovered, telling the public, "There are opportunities for us to be more intentional as an organization."
As a result, the City of Charlotte is changing the way it hires vendors for contracting amounts less than $100,000 "to ensure we have the necessary oversight in place and to help ensure consistency with our values." Specifically, the city will make sure smaller contracts with potentially larger cumulative amounts are more visible and will require all departments to request a proposal/quote from at least one MWSBE every time.
"Our solution is to improve and tighten procurement policies and processes to more closely align with and support our intention to promote MWSBE participation and opportunities," City Manager Marcus Jones wrote in an email to council members.
Jones outlined four major changes that will go into effect on December 1:
1) All departments must request a quote/proposal from a CBI-certified MWSBE as part of the process to hire service providers for contracts/purchase orders from $10,000 to $100,000 (If there are firms registered with CBI for the needed service). Multiple quotes are already required as part of the process and requiring MWSBE participation allows us to progress on our goals.
2) Strengthen procurement planning in departments by requiring departments to submit an annual procurement forecast as part of their annual budget request. This will help with long-term planning and will also allow CBI the opportunity to review potential purchases for targeted markets and unbundling earlier in the procurement process giving certified firms more time to prepare for opportunities.
3) The Finance Department’s Internal Controls Division will develop a process to actively monitor city purchase orders/contracts to the same vendor across departments and divisions.
4) Requiring annual CBI training for all managers and above as part of our standard process.
The formal response follows a WCNC Charlotte investigation that found the city awarded more than $400,000 worth of pandemic-era work to a talent coach who did not go through the certification process while overlooking other qualified and certified small businesses.
Jones said he's not found any evidence that suggests any city employee violated any policy.
"As you know, I believe that how we do our work is just as important as the work that we do," Jones wrote to council members. "This is important to any organization but critical for government to ensure the public’s trust. Furthermore, we have certain values as an organization around diversity, equity, and inclusion. These are more than words – they serve as guiding principles that provide guidance for staff and clarity if we are ever in doubt about what we do. I believe that we are successful the vast of majority of the time, but we also need to address situations when the results of our processes do not meet our expectations."
Just last week, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles pledged action, saying the city of Charlotte will learn from the "mistake."
While the issue wasn't on Monday night's agenda, Councilmember James Mitchell requested the city manager address the chances publicly, because "We're talking about building credibility in the community."
Councilmember LaWana Mayfield, who was critical of the city following WCNC Charlotte's investigation, called the expected changes "a good step."
"This is a good step and to have transparency, so the community understands we identified it and the city manager is taking steps to move forward," Councilmember Mayfield said.
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