Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today introduced proposed revisions to the County’s procurement code to enhance participation of Minority- and Women Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBE) and to crackdown on fraudulent activity.
“My administration remains committed to ensuring that M/WBEs share an equal footing with larger companies seeking to do business with Cook County,” President Preckwinkle said. “These changes will ultimately promote greater participation of M/WBEs on County contracts and enhance our ability to hold contractors who cut corners accountable.”
President Preckwinkle is proposing greater oversight of prime contractors who fail to meet their contractual M/WBE commitments by establishing new penalties in the procurement code. Under the changes, companies that make false statements regarding their M/WBE participation or status will be potentially liable for a $2,500 fine. Their contracts also may be subject to termination and their company may be disqualified for County contracts for up to five years.
Companies that fail to meet participation goals may be required to pay the difference between their contractual goal and the actual amount of the goal they reached. The penalties against prime contractors levied by the County will go through the Administrative Hearing process, rather than the court system where cases generally take longer to resolve. The revisions also will crackdown on “pass-throughs” and businesses that inappropriately take advantage of M/WBE status, depriving other businesses of a chance compete for County contracts.
The ordinance is being sponsored by Commissioners Jerry Butler (D-3rd), John Daley (D-11th), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-7th), Gregg Goslin (R-14th), Stanley Moore (D-4th), Joan Murphy (D-6th), Edwin Reyes (D-8th), Peter Silvestri (R-9th), Deborah Sims (D-5th), Robert Steele (D-2nd), and Jeffrey Tobolski (D-16th).
The changes also focus on ways to broaden the pool of qualified M/WBEs by enhancing the County’s Target Market Program, which identifies qualified M/WBEs as potential prime contractors.
“It is good practice for the County to periodically review its M/WBE policies,” said Jacqueline Gomez, Cook County’s Director of Contract Compliance. “These changes will not only promote a more fair and equitable contracting process, the revisions to our procurement code also will strengthen small businesses.”
The proposed ordinance changes also will update and codify the County’s targeted 35 percent M/WBE participation in bond transactions. The changes will clarify how the County invests bond proceeds and codify the practice of promoting 35 percent M/WBE participation in these investments. The Chief Financial Officer also will be required to submit to the County Board a report detailing any proposed financing initiatives, their benefits to the County and an outline of certified M/WBE investment firms included in the financing.
“Enhancing participation in Minority and Women-Owned financial service firms allows the County to diversify the firms that target investors in our bond offerings as we continue to strengthen our long-term financial health,” said Ivan Samstein, Cook County CFO.
The ordinance was referred to the Committee on Finance.
Also on Wednesday, the County Board approved a change to its procurement ordinance that requires employees, contractors and those who seek county business to report suspected or known fraudulent activity to the Office of the Independent Inspector General.
“These changes will obligate employees and contractors to report fraudulent activity, which help the County reduce illegal activity in the procurement process,” Preckwinkle said.