Following bid protests by losers of a $675-million flood control project in New Orleans that were upheld by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Army Corps of Engineers is seeking new bids from the contract’s original five short-listed teams. Some observers termed the move to re-procure the project as highly unusual and bidders are not saying how they will proceed.
The move to re-bid will now push contract award for the Permanent Canal Closures and Pump stations (PCCP) to April 2012 and final project completion to October 2015, almost a year later than originally anticipated.
The design-build contract was awarded in April to CBY, a joint venture of CDM, Cambridge, Mass.; Birmingham, Ala.-based Brasfield & Gorrie; and Yates Construction, Philadelphia, Miss.,
Two competing bidders then protested the award: Ft. Worth-based PCCP Constructors, comprising Kiewit Corp., Omaha, Traylor Bros., Evansville, Ind., and M.R. Pittman Group, New Orleans; and Bechtel Infrastructure Corp., Frederick, Md.
GAO upheld the protest Aug. 4, noting the conflict of interest possibility, faulting the Corps’ evaluation of technical proposals and asserting that the agency may have misled bidders about the role of price in the evaluation.
However, after its own investigation sought by GAO, the Corps has found no organizational conflict of interest by Richmond Kendrick, former chief of program execution for the Corps Hurricane Protection Office in New Orleans.
Kendrick was hired in September 2010 by CDM, which headed the original winning project team, less than a month after he retired from the Corps office.
Col. Ed Fleming, commander of the Corps New Orleans district, says he is confident that re-bidding the contract is the best approach for a “path forward that is in compliance with the GAO's recommendations and will result in the expedient construction of the three outfall canal permanent closures and pumps."
However, it is "almost unprecedented" for the selection to be thrown out, says Rob Vining, national water resources practice leader at HNTB Corp. and former Corps chief of civil works program management. “When I worked for the Corps, if there were issues raised, the GAO would recommend putting internal controls in the process, but they would not throw out the whole selection,” he says.
The decision also indicates that the district concluded it would be too complicated to proceed with a best value selection, so it changed the [request for proposals] to be price-based, according to Vining. “In my mind, the Corps changed the type of procurement it will be this time,” he says. “The Corps lost a year on the selection process, and that’s a year those pumps could have been in place.”