Prompted by criticism relating to inappropriate perks, nepotism, and corruption, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) has recently enacted reforms that will affect DRPA’s construction projects. The DRPA is responsible for operating 4 toll bridges between Philadelphia and New Jersey, as well as the Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) commuter rail line.
The DRPA first came under scrutiny last month when it was revealed that its public safety director, Michael Joyce, had allowed his daughter to use a DRPA EZ-Pass account for free. Soon after, DRPA raised eyebrows again when it revoked certain employee perks, including the use of a free EZ-Pass, on August 18, 2010, and then backtracked and attempted to reinstate the perks on August 30, 2010, less than two weeks later. Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed the DRPA’s attempt to restore the perks.
Public scrutiny arising from the discovery of employee perks and other corruption resulted in a push for reform not only from Governor Christie but also from Pennsylvania Governor, Edward G. Rendell. Substantial changes resulted, including the institution of regular audits and rules prohibiting nepotism.
Elimination of No-Bid Contracts
One notable reform is the elimination of no-bid contracts. Generally, no-bid contracts on government projects are permitted only in limited circumstances. No-bid contracts may be permitted where there is only one source for a product; for example, if only one manufacturer produced the materials necessary for a project. Similarly, for projects where time is of the essence, such as when repairs to a bridge must be done within a matter of hours to prevent harm to commuters, a no-bid contract may be appropriate. Prior to the recent reforms, assertions were made that the DRPA allowed no-bid contracts for projects that should have been open for bidding.
The elimination of no-bid contracts is great news for Philadelphia and New Jersey contractors. Bridge and rail line projects that otherwise would have been funneled to regular DRPA contractors without any open bidding will now be made available for public bid. Open bidding means more opportunities for area contractors. Area contractors should become aware of all of the new DRPA requirements to ensure that their bids will be eligible for consideration for newly available projects.