No Accounting for Haste

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Tenant organizers don’t have to feel underappreciated any longer. According to new contract-reporting requirements from the city’s housing agency, organizing now has an exact price: $50 a unit.

But the inquiring executive director will probably have additional questions when it comes time to fill out the reports. For example: If one tenant needs two pieces of advice, how many units of counseling (at $50 each) is that? What if it’s bad advice? How many units of outreach ($50) are included in one tenant meeting ($250), and how many would be considered extra and billable? And why, for God’s sake, is the rate for mailings the suspiciously exact sum of $771?

The changes come as the contracts office at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development shifts its reporting requirements from a “scope of services” scheme to stricter “deliverables” bookkeeping, where each service the city buys must be scrupulously–and precisely–accounted for.

Luckily, as a City Council analysis proves, there’s plenty of time to think these questions over. Amid some tough competition, HPD took 1998’s slowpoke prize for contract processing.

Across all agencies, the average processing time is about three months for competitive sealed-bid contracts, and close to a year for requests for proposals. The housing agency’s RFP processing was about average, at 282 days. But on competitive bids, the agency took the hindmost: Its bureaucrats spent, on average, six months processing each of the 69 sealed-bid contracts awarded last fiscal year.