Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Survey Finds Contracting to Be More Than Shifting Responsibility to Private Sector

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Survey Finds Contracting to Be More Than Shifting Responsibility to Private Sector

Article excerpt

Contracting produces high-quality services to citizens, but only when local government managers ensure strong relationships with contractors, vendor competition, and contract accountability, finds a new study on Local Government Contracting, conducted by American University and supported by NLC.

With increased fiscal challenges for many cities across America more local leaders have begun investigating alternative means for delivering services, namely contracting or privatization. While contracting is not a new concept, it does alter the service delivery landscape for city officials.

More specifically, contracting requires a new set of local management skills and raises issues about the quality of contracted services, new costs associated with contracting, managing vendor competition and ensuring optimal contract performance. The survey finds:

* Most city officials (93 percent) support government contracting;

* Nearly seven in 10 officials (69 percent) indicate that their contracts produce high-quality services to citizens; 55 percent report saving money as a result of contracting services;

* However, the market for vendor competition is limited, with more than one in three officials (34 percent) reporting it difficult to find high quality vendors;

* More than one in two officials (52 percent) report counseling contractors to ensure they will continue to bid on their contracts in the future; and

* Nearly eight in 10 managers (78 percent) agree that performance issues appear near the beginning or midway through a contract.

The ability to effectively manage contracts is often complicated by the very nature of dealing with an outside organization.

Most respondents (69 percent) indicate they are confident in their level of expertise to effectively manage contracts, but only half report having adequate staff (48 percent) or enough time (40 percent) to do so. …

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