Bill Places New Regulations on Future UC Contracts

    The Senate Government Organization Committee approved a bill
    last week concerning the regulation and level of public access to University
    of California
    contracts.

    The bill, authored by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San
    Mateo), represents a reaction to past and present business issues with
    companies contracted by UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis, and would require all
    companies seeking to enter into contracts with the UC system to answer a
    questionnaire designed to identify irresponsible firms and to ensure that no
    business relationships are developed with such companies. The survey would
    include questions about companies’ past business practices, such as their
    history of tax payment as well as their adherence to fair labor practices.

    Adam Keigwin, Yee’s communications director, said the
    legislation aims to accomplish three objectives related to the contracts the UC
    system enters.

    “[The bill] is designed to require contracts to be limited
    to a three-year term to make sure that taxpayers and students are getting the
    best value for the price, to introduce a questionnaire so that the UC knows the
    business histories of the companies with whom they contract, and to increase
    the transparency of the business contracts into which the university is
    entering,” Keigwin said.

    In a statement concerning the legislation, Yee referred to a
    number of examples of contractual discrepancies that spurred him to take
    action. A contract that was awarded to a painting company at UCSB, for
    instance, ended when the company declared bankruptcy, leaving employees with no
    compensation for the work that they had already completed for the university.

    Yee also decried a situation at UC Davis, where the company
    Sodexho has held the contract for food services for over a decade. With the
    bill, the university will be required to open the contract to bidding every
    three years.

    “Sodexho has given millions to UC Davis, and in return
    appears to have been granted a ‘no-bid’ contract, as no other entity has been
    allowed to bid for the contract for over a decade,” Keigwin said. “While
    companies with long-term contracts like Sodexho could be possibly providing the
    best value, we do not know if this is true since other entities have not been
    allowed to bid for that specific contract.”

    The bill would also force the university to make public all
    records of its contractual proceedings with individual businesses. Each
    contract that the UC system enters into would be recorded into a public
    database available for public review at every UC campus.

    In addition to this required disclosure, the UC system would
    also be required to solicit bids through a competitive bidding process at the
    end of every three-year contract term and record the results of this process in
    the public database.

    “At the end of the three years, the request for proposal
    would have to be put out, and there may or may not be multiple bids for the
    contract,” Keigwin said. “But, if there is more than one bid, the
    administration can then make the decision that is in the best interest of
    students and taxpayers. In this way, the public can hold the administration of
    the UC accountable for making sure they make the right decisions.”

    UC Office of the President spokeswoman Nicole Savickas said
    that the university is working on improving the quality and competitiveness of
    its contract process.

    “The University of
    California
    has and will continue to
    work diligently to improve its contracting process and ensure the highest
    degree of competition and best value for the UC system,” Savickas said.

    The bill will go before the Senate’s fiscal committee next
    week. If approved by both the Assembly and the Senate, the bill will then go
    before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for approval.

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