According to the report, the issue is further complicated by the industry's varying use of terminology. After digging into the industry's use of certain terms, such as "program management," "program manager" and "consent decree program," the county found considerable room for ambiguity.
Stated the IG's report: "During our investigation ... it became clear that both [firms] used [industry] terms without definition, creating ambiguity" and often "leaving it to the reader or listener to apply his/her own definition or context to these words and phrases." Moreover, it goes on:
"We find that there is flexibility in the use of certain terms and phrases within the industry. There is no categorically right way or wrong way; no black or white choice, just shades of grey. The question then, is to what extent the respective parties have indulged in literary license to market their experiences and qualifications?"
The report also includes an interesting and extensive attempt at defining the term "consent decree program," with the IG ultimately settling upon a rather expansive definition. (Interested readers can find the full report here.)
In the end, the Inspector General dismissed all of the 15 or more complaints against AECOM, except one. That could possibly clear the way for the mayor and county commissioners to move forward with a contract award. But before they do that, the IG had some final words of wisdom to share.
"Whether or not this finding impacts the awarding of this contract to one vendor or the other is clearly up to the Mayor and ultimately the Board of County Commissioners. Either way, the process is in need of reform. During our investigation, we spoke with many jurisdictions about their procurement processes for professional services. We could improve our system by researching the solutions implemented by other jurisdictions. Moreover, this investigation demonstrates that the process could benefit greatly with the addition of industry-suitable definitions and other guidelines."
Sounds like a good idea to me. What do you think? Let us hear your thoughts.