The New Orleans City Council approved a measure Thursday that will require city departments to file annual reports documenting their success at achieving the city’s goals for disadvantaged business enterprise participation.
The law is intended to provide a mechanism for the council to check up on the administration’s claims that 35 percent of the work on city contracts goes to disadvantaged business enterprises, generally meaning those owned by racial minorities or women.
The city’s DBE regulations require that companies receiving city contracts meet or exceed the 35 percent participation goal on publicly financed projects and private projects that receive public funding or incentives. Vendors risk having their contracts terminated or payments withheld if they don’t meet that goal.
Councilman Jared Brossett, who introduced the ordinance calling for the reporting requirements, said there is a lack of information about how well the program is doing. He said his ordinance came about as a result of conversations with constituents, contractors and subcontractors who believe there is a “lack of accountability” in the administration’s DBE program.
“I believe improved access to information will improve transparency and accountability, which will increase the public trust,” Brossett said. “Simply having a DBE program is not enough.”
Under the new measure, the city’s chief administrative officer must submit to the City Council, along with his annual budget request, a report identifying the city’s DBE goals and attainment rates for the preceding two years.
The measure also calls for all city departments, agencies, corporations, boards and commissions that are subject to the city’s DBE goals to submit an annual report to the council by Oct. 15 outlining their progress toward achieving the participation goals for the prior two years.
The report must also include the total number and value of all contracts awarded during the reporting period; the total number and value of all contracts awarded to disadvantaged businesses as prime contractors; and the total number and value of all contracts awarded by non-DBE prime contractors to disadvantaged businesses as subcontractors.
Other details — such as whether contracts received by disadvantaged businesses were procurements, professional services, personal services or construction contracts — must also be included in the reports.
“We believe that this ordinance brings the teeth that have been missing and lacking from (the city’s DBE regulations) for some time,” said Patrice Williams-Smith, president and chief executive officer of the New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce.
The ordinance passed unanimously, with all of the council members asking to be added as co-sponsors.
“It’s not enough to have DBE on the wall,” Councilman Jason Williams said. “We have to make sure that we have success stories, that we can show the numbers, show that we’re doing better each year moving forward. And if we are doing what we’re supposed to be doing in City Hall, then we will show our successes and applaud.”