City auditor’s office catches problems in contract process

The city of Atlanta auditor’s office caught problems with the bidding of a proposed Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport rental car center contract.

The auditor's independent procurement review of the airport rental car center operations and maintenance contracting found that one of the companies competing for the contract listed an airport employee as a key staff member in its proposal.

If the company had won the contract, it may have hired the employee, who works at Hartsfield-Jackson's centralized command and control center, away from the airport. That raises a potential conflict of interest. The company should have disclosed whether anyone involved in the project had a direct relationship with the city, but the company did not disclose that on a form submitted with its proposal, according to the independent procurement review.

The company ended up being disqualified because of an unrelated issue, and also disqualified after the auditor’s office provided the information to the city’s Department of Procurement.

The independent procurement review office was created last year amid the ongoing federal investigation into corruption at Atlanta City Hall in an effort to clean up contracting, and the new office began reviewing pending city contracts this year.

The independent procurement review also found that the company with the existing airport contract may enjoy a benefit over would-be rivals. It said the city was “withholding information” known by the incumbent from other companies that wanted to compete for the contract. The city did not provide information on square footage of buildings to be served, equipment to be turned over in a transition to a new contractor and other details, and said it was dependent on the airport for that information.

However the incumbent, a joint venture of Engie and MiJoy, did not end up winning the contract.

Instead, a different company, Meridian Urban Joint Venture LLC, was selected to win the $13.7 million contract. The Atlanta City Council transportation committee voted Wednesday in favor of the deal, which now goes to the full council for approval.

City Council member Andre Dickens, who chairs the council transportation committee overseeing the airport, said the audit “was necessary. It’s doing exactly what it was intended to do. … That’s why the independent procurement review office was put in place.”