Looking for transparency in Los Osos
March 26, 2010
The common points between Cape Coral, New Orleans and the 2005 Los Osos contract, as well as the current LOWWP shortlist proposal, are contract procurement and costs issues.
The Tribune article stated that MWH spokesperson, “VanderLaan pointed out that the city of New Orleans has signed an amendment to the contract, since the Inspector General’s report became public.”
This amendment, in essence, will force MWH to do their job but once that is defined what comes next is uncertain. On March 19, 2010, David Hammer of The Times Picayune reported:
“The IG’s draft report also recommends that Mayor Nagin officials “develop contract terms that protect the city’s interests and provide incentives for containing costs.” The recent amendment appears to take steps toward that goal by giving the city and MWH 30 days to agree on performance goals, which may cover such things as quality of work, timeliness, efficiency and cost containment. By the time those goals are set, however, there may be only two months left on the contract.”
In Los Osos, we were promised, as part of the 218 engineer’s report which lead up to the 218 vote, a head-to-head comparison of Step and Gravity collection through the design build phase. Early in 2009 Supervisor Gibson breached that contract by removing STEP from the process. STEP contractors, originally involved in this process, work according to performance standards. Here, the requirements of a project are explained and then the engineering firm designs a system to meet those needs. Cost and time constraints are fixed.
This type of protocol, which ensures work is completed reasonably, seems to be something which MWH must be forced into after they enter contracts through “backdoors” instead of a fair competitive bidding process.
In 2006, it was reported from New Orleans that “The fiscal report also claims that city officials used “illegal contracting methodology” in inking agreements worth more than $92 million with two national firms, the Shaw Group and MWH. It says the deal with MWH tied profits to costs, an arrangement that violates federal rules because it provides no incentive to keep costs low.”
Also 2006, in Cape Coral, Florida, Kellog Brown & Root, the Texas-based subsidiary of Halliburton, Co., was the original manager of the Cape utility project but assigned its contract to MWH Constructors. Issues arose which brought about a forensic audit done by Kessler International who found irregularities and over payments. The audit was refuted by MWH who refused to hand over vital information so the audit was incomplete. MWH has recently hired its own auditors to exonerate themselves.
In 2005, when Los Osos questioned MWH’s accounting practices, the MWH local offices were broken into and all of the Los Osos records were stolen. Allegedly they were held in one sole location, the project manager’s laptop, which happened to be the only thing stolen. Around the same time, two integrally involved, government officials’ hard drives were wiped clean.
MWH are also currently heading the heavily flawed, Morro Bay/Cayucos project. The project manager of the 2005, failed, MWH Los Osos Wastewater Project (whose lap top was “stolen”) is now the head of the Morro Bay/Cayucos Wastewater Project, the recent contract of which was questionably procured.
None of this information is new to the County. Paavo Ogren and Supervisor Gibson are fully aware of these issues, yet MWH is still consistently used in San Luis Obispo County.
Since the passage of the 218 vote, the County has spared no expense. Originally anticipated to cost $2 million in order for LOWWP to get on the table, the County has spent $7.25 million and counting. The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board made it very clear to the County, in writing, that they should act in an expeditious manner and compare those projects already looked at. This would mean comparing the Ripley STEP proposal with the MWH gravity plan, but that has not happened.
There has been no transparency of government and open communication with the community as the County originally promised–only obfuscation of the issues. This can be seen in the more than 3,000 page Environmental Impact Report, (CEQA law states that the EIR should be concise and readable by the average person), to the inability for appellants, no less the public, to garner information regarding the upcoming Coastal Commission hearing.
The County is using our money against us to insure that MWH gets their contracts. If we are the obstructionists that the County claims, then why did the Planning Commission and Coastal Commission both feel that our comments, ignored by the County, are actually valid?
Piper Reilly is a member of Surfrider, Los Osos Sustainability Group and a Prohibition Zone home owner in Los Osos.