Bowser Vows Contracting Fairness for Black Businesses

first_imgD.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has a new chief procurement officer. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)The mayor of the District said that she understands the difficulty that Black businesses have getting contracts with the D.C. government and is working to remedy that. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced the city’s new chief procurement officer for the Office of Contracting and Procurement (OCP), George Shutter, on May 8. The mayor said that Shutter understands the need for businesses of any size and composition in the District to have a sense that they will have a fair shot at contracting with the city.“I pledge to you that our administration will have open and transparent practices in procurement,” Bowser said. “We are looking at ways for the procurement process to bring D.C. residents jobs and to bring in more small and local businesses.”The mayor announced Shutter in his new job along with Melinda M. Bolling as the director of Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs; Raymond Davidson as director of the Child and Family Services Administration; and Alexis Taylor as director of the Office of Disability Rights.Shutter’s job will be to manage the process the District uses to bid out government contracts and services to the private sector in addition to implementing the federal and District laws under his jurisdiction. He has worked as the chief financial officer for TechnoServe, an international non-profit providing business solutions to address poverty in over 30 countries and was Grant Thornton’s Global Public Sector’s executive director in the Middle East, North African, and South Asia, where he opened operations in Dubai’s International Financial Center and developed offices in Iraq.Shutter has also worked as the chief financial officer and chief acquisitions officer for the U.S. Peace Corps.The District was one of the first cities to have a robust minority contracting program, which was started by D.C. Mayor Marion S. Barry in his first term in office from 1979-1983, and continued until he stepped down in 1991. Barry mandated that 35 percent of all District government contracts must go to Black-owned or other minority firms. He also required White-owned firms to subcontract and partner with Black and female businesses.Barry’s mandate has been credited with creating opportunities for Black businesses such as BET and entrepreneurs like real estate mogul R. Donahue Peebles. Later, an effort was made to take the racial element out of city contracting, and local businesses such as engineering giant M. C. Dean, which is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, were added as a part of the city’s procurement preference program.Bowser rarely talks about Black firms specifically but has in the past talked about them in the context of “local” and “neighborhood” businesses.In April, the D.C. Council, in a rare racially-tinged vote of 6-5, denied Corizon and its Black partner, MBI Health Services, the city’s jail health care contract largely on the basis of Corizon’s dubious performance in other states that have produced numerous lawsuits. The council rejected the contract even though Bowser and her predecessor, Mayor Vincent Gray, recommended that Corizon get the contract.Shutter said that he is aware of the tension surrounding Black businesses getting city contracts. “I want to improve procurement and contracting services and make sure that we are transparent,” he said.Bowser said that she will make sure that city department heads are fully aware of fair procurement requirements. “I will mandate that procurements professionals in each agency are know the law and contract management,” the mayor said. “Those who do not I will require that they take a refresher course.”In other developments, Bowser said that she is open to the Washington Redskins relocating to the District from Prince George’s County using a newly refurbished RFK Stadium as its playing site. “The infrastructure is there for the team and the United will be leaving RFK in a few years,” Bowser said. “We have reached out to the team [to come back to Washington].”last_img

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