Does PA Steel Act Prohibit Public Owner From Specifying Foreign-Made Cast Iron Boiler?

The PA Steel Products Procurement Act requires that all steel products (including cast iron products) supplied on a Pennsylvania public works project must be made from U.S.-made steel. Recently, a school district's contract specified a cast iron boiler manufactured in Europe as the Read more

Disappointed Bidder Lacks Standing To Challenge P3 Contract Award By Non-Commonwealth Entity

In a recent case of first impression, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has affirmed a lower court ruling that a disappointed bidder lacked standing to challenge a contract awarded by a non-Commonwealth entity under the Public-Private Transportation Partnership Act (P3 Act). In Read more

City Of Allentown Permitted To Use RFP Process For Waste Services Contract

In a decision issued on July 20, 2017, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania upheld the City of Allentown's use of the Request for Proposals (RFP) process in a contract award. In 2015, Allentown issued an RFP for the award of a Read more

Are RFQs Immune From Protest Under The Procurement Code?

If you respond to a Request for Quotes (RFQ) issued by a Commonwealth department or agency, can you protest if the resulting purchase order is awarded to another bidder? According to the Commonwealth's Office of Administration, the answer is no. Read more

Pennsylvania Initiates Disparity Study For Small Diverse Business Program

In June 2017, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania initiated a disparity study that will provide information to help the Department of General Services (DGS) implement the Pennsylvania's Small Diverse Business Program. The expected completion date for the disparity study is Read more

Bid Protests

Procurement Code Protest Allowed Where Late Filing Was Due To Extraordinary Circumstances

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Under the Pa. Procurement Code, a protest must be filed within seven days after the protestant knew or should have known of the facts giving rise to the protest.  If the protest is untimely, it will be rejected. Recently, in a published opinion and in a departure from the usual rule, the Commonwealth Court decided that equitable principles would allow a late-filed protest to be considered.

The case concerned Pa. Department of Transportation (PennDOT) inspection contracts on which Bureau Veritas (BV), the protestant, had submitted a statement of interest.  PennDOT ranked BV fifth in its statement of rankings.  BV learned of the rankings on November 13, 2014.  Seven days later, on November 20, 2014, BV filed a protest, but the email of its protest was rejected by PennDOT’s computer server due to improper formatting of the file attachment.  On November 21, 2014, BV learned of the email rejection and promptly re-sent the email with the proper formatting of the file attachment, eight days after the publication of the rankings.  PennDOT rejected BV’s protest as untimely and on the merits.  BV then argued that it should be allowed to file its protest nunc pro tunc (literally, “now for then”). PennDOT issued a final determination rejecting the protest, as well as the request that the protest be considered nunc pro tunc.  BV appealed to the Commonwealth Court. Read more

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in Bid Protests, Court Decisions, PennDOT, Procurement Code Leave a comment

DBE Pass-Through Scheme Alleged On PennDOT Platt Bridge Project In Phila.

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According to a criminal information filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, still another fraud scheme involving the U.S. Department of Transportation’s disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) Program has been uncovered, this time on the federally-funded George C. Platt Memorial Bridge project in Philadelphia.

In April 2011, PennDOT awarded a $42.7M contract to perform structural steel painting and repairs on the Platt Bridge to a joint venture consisting of Hercules Painting Company, Inc., of New Castle, Pa., and Vimas Painting Company, Inc., of Lowellville, Ohio.  During the bid process, the Hercules-Vimas JV allegedly committed to subcontract $3.1M in DBE work to Vertech International, Inc., to supply paint materials for the project.  Instead, the Hercules-Vimas JV allegedly negotiated contracts and ordered materials for the Platt Bridge project directly with non-DBE suppliers, with Vertech allegedly acting as a pass-through to give the appearance that DBE requirements had been satisfied.  PennDOT awarded approximately $1.97M in DBE credit to the Hercules-Vimas JV.  Vertech was allegedly paid 1.75% of the face value of the invoices it processed to act as a pass-through.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in DBE/MBE/WBE, PennDOT Leave a comment

DBE Pass-Through Scheme Alleged On Two PennDOT Bridge Projects In Phila.

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According to a criminal information filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, still another fraud scheme involving the U.S. Department of Transportation’s disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) Program has been uncovered on two different federally-funded projects in Philadelphia.

In September 2009, PennDOT awarded a $70.3M contract to a tri-venture consisting of a Philadelphia-based highway contractor, Alpha Painting & Construction Co., Inc., of Baltimore, and Liberty Maintenance, Inc., of Campbell, Ohio, to perform structural steel painting and repairs, and concrete repairs, on the I-95 Girard Point Bridge in Philadelphia. As part of the contract, the tri-venture committed to subcontract $4.7M of work to Markias, a now-defunct certified DBE, to supply materials for use on the the contract.  Alpha and Liberty formed a joint venture and allegedly ordered the needed materials directly from non-DBE suppliers, and allegedly used Markias as a pass-through to give the appearance that the DBE requirements had been satisfied.  PennDOT awarded approximately $3.26M in DBE credit to the tri-venture based on the DBE work allegedly performed by Markias.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in DBE/MBE/WBE, PennDOT Leave a comment

Pennsylvania Steel Erector Indicted In DBE Pass-Through Scheme And Suspended On Federally Funded Contracts

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If you are a prime contractor working on federally-funded transportation projects, beware of fraud involving the U.S. Department of Transportation’s disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) program. A recently exposed “pass-through” scheme involving $27 million in federally-funded contracts scheme was engineered together by subcontractor Century Steel Erectors Co., and WMCC, Inc., a certified DBE.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in DBE/MBE/WBE, PennDOT Leave a comment

Four Plead Guilty In Fraud Scheme To Obtain $18.7 Million In DBE Subcontracts On PennDOT Projects

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Still another “pass-through” fraud scheme involving the U.S. Department of Transportation’s disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) program has been exposed, with criminal penalties for all involved.

On October 8, 2015, Dennis Weber, Dale Weber, Carl M. Weber Steel Service, Inc., and Judy Noll pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges related to a complex DBE fraud scheme that, incredibly, lasted for more than 16 years, totaled almost $19 million, and involved 224 bridge projects throughout Pennsylvania.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in DBE/MBE/WBE, PennDOT Leave a comment

PennDOT Adjusts Procedures for Counting DBE Suppliers

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Effective November 15, 2012, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced in a recent Bulletin on its ECMS website that it was adjusting its procedures for counting DBE suppliers in response to federal guidance.

Under the new procedures, in order for a DBE firm to receive regular dealer (60%) credit for materials supplied on a federally-assisted transportation project, the answer to the following two questions must be “yes”:

First, does the firm “regularly” engage in the purchase and sale or lease, to the general public in the usual course of its business, of products of the general character involved in the contract and for which DBE credit is sought?

Second, is the role the firm plays on the specific contract in question consistent with the regular sale or lease of the products in question, as distinct from a role better understood as that of a broker, packager, manufacturer’s representative, or other person who arranges or expedites a transaction?

In order to assist prime contractors and DBEs, PennDOT has developed a new form for determining the appropriate DBE credit. This form can be found here. PennDOT is also requesting feedback on the form from prime contractors who elect to use it.  Comments and suggestions should be submitted to: minorityparticipation@pa.gov.

According to the PennDOT Bulletin, if it is later determined that the DBE misrepresented itself or erroneously concluded that it was acting as a regular dealer, the DBE participation would still have to be revised.  However, PennDOT would fully consider the form’s documentation in its good faith efforts review if the prime contractor was unable to replace the DBE participation.  Therefore, it would be prudent for prime contractors to start to use this form in order to protect themselves from a later adverse determination on “good faith efforts.”

The complete Bulletin can be found here.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in DBE/MBE/WBE, PennDOT Leave a comment

Bridge Contractor Found Guilty in 15-Year DBE Scheme

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Once again, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s DBE program is in the news, with a warning for contractors who might think they can evade the DBE rules applicable to federally funded public contracts.  In April 2012, the owner of Schuylkill Products, Inc., a Pennsylvania bridge contractor, was found guilty on 26 of 30 charges in an indictment including conspiracy to defraud the U.S. DOT in a DBE fraud scheme.

Joseph W. Nagle, the contractor-owner, was convicted of participating in a 15-year-long scheme, where he and other executives at his firm diverted over 300 PennDOT and SEPTA construction contracts to the firm and a subsidiary firm that were reserved for DBE’s.  The contractor owner and his co-conspirators executed the scheme by using Marikina Construction Corporation, a small Connecticut highway construction firm, as a “front” company to obtain these lucrative government contracts.

This prosecution is Exhibit A on why contractors should be especially wary of trying to circumvent the strict DBE rules on U.S. DOT-funded public contracts.  If you happen to be caught, the penalties – both criminal and civil – can be severe, including jail time.

According to the press release issued by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, this recent prosecution is just one salvo in the federal government’s continuing battle to shut down DBE fraud schemes:

 “Preventing and detecting DBE fraud are priorities for the Secretary of Transportation and the USDOT Office of Inspector General,” said Doug Shoemaker, OIG Regional Special Agent in Charge. “This significant conviction, in what is the largest reported DBE fraud case in USDOT history, will serve as a clear signal that severe penalties await those who would attempt to subvert USDOT laws and regulations. Prime contractors and subcontractors are cautioned not to engage in fraudulent DBE activity and are encouraged to report any suspected DBE fraud to the USDOT-OIG. Our agents will continue to work with the Secretary of Transportation, the Administrators of the Federal Highway and Transit Administrations, and our law enforcement and prosecutorial colleagues to expose and shut down DBE fraud schemes throughout Pennsylvania and the United States.”

The full press release explaining the prosecution and its background can be found here.  This case has some similarities to the recent prosecution of an Ohio contractor which I commented about here.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in DBE/MBE/WBE, PennDOT Leave a comment