A losing firm that bid on the state's lucrative flood recovery contract filed a protest Thursday after another company won the contract with a more expensive price.
AECOM, which was one of five companies that bid on a disaster management contract to oversee $1.6 billion in federal flood relief, filed a protest saying they should be awarded the contract because they are the most responsive, qualified bidder and because they are approximately $64 million to $75 million less expensive than the winning company.
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It's the latest wrench in a process that has been plagued by protests and already has required the state to void and restart a solicitation for the coveted government contract.
Last week, the state announced the work would go to IEM, a North Carolina-based disaster management firm, though the contract has not yet been finalized with the state. State officials have not yet estimated the price tag of IEM's contract, however, AECOM estimated the value of the IEM bid at least $253 million, based on their submitted costs.
Alternatively, AECOM estimated its own contract value would be at least $181 million, which would have made it the least expensive bidder.
The difference in the cost between the two companies equates to 1,000 to 1,200 homes that won't be served by IEM's contract, Tyler Jones, Senior Vice President of AECOM wrote in the protest letter.
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Richard Carbo, a spokesman for Gov. John Bel Edwards, said the protest would not slow down the recovery process. He said state officials are still actively negotiating their contract with IEM and will move forward as planned.
"The procurement office will hear the protest, but it's not going to change or delay the contract," he said.
Initially, the state awarded IEM the contract last month, but had to void the process after protests were filed because IEM lacked necessary licenses. The state Licensing Board for Contractors ultimately ruled that IEM should be disqualified, but that decision ruffled feathers because the attorney who made the call, Larry Bankston, has a son who worked for one of the competing companies.
Ultimately, the state tossed the bids and restarted the process. The governor's staff said that there was too much uncertainty about the licensing requirements and that the bids were too expensive. When IEM was awarded the contract the second time around last week, they said taxpayers would benefit from the lower bids.
IEM, a North Carolina-based disaster management company, has for a second time been awarded …
In the second round of bids, costs were weighted more heavily in the scoring process to judge the proposals. But IEM was still the fourth most expensive, according to AECOM's estimates. They were the least expensive company in the first solicitation process.
"It's not just about who is the lowest," said Jacques Berry, a spokesman for the Division of Administration, who pointed out that cost only made up 30 percent of the scoring weight. "It's about the overall value."
AECOM most recently oversaw the state's $150 million Shelter at Home program, which provided temporary fixes for more than 10,000 flooded homes. The Advocate reported that AECOM charged the state for some eye-popping rates including $34 million in management and administrative costs and rates like $55 per hour for a call center employee.
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