City Asks for 'Minority Compliance' Audit on Businesses

By Gayla Lowery

Staff Writer, The FAMUAN

Published: Thursday, October 13, 2011

Updated: Friday, October 14, 2011

The city of Tallahassee has requested an audit for four contractors to make sure they were in compliance with the requirements of the city's Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) policy.

The City Manager called for the City Auditor to conduct the audit after MBE staff found inconsistencies in the records submitted by contractors. The contractors are: Allen's Excavation Inc., North Florida Asphalt, M of Tallahassee Inc. and Sandco, Inc.

As part of the ongoing audit, the contractors received letters from the city on Sept. 23, which detailed non-compliance issues found in the course of the audit.

The letters were designed to give the contractors time to clarify whether compliance was achieved. Angie Herald, vice president of North Florida Asphalt, said the city should do audits more frequently.

"We are having some issues because we had the sub-contractor purchase materials out of pocket instead of writing them a check directly, but I'm not really sure we have done anything out of compliance," Herald said. "We do try to do everything right and I just think the minority program should be monitored a little better."

The MBE program helps ensure minority-owned businesses can compete for patrons with other businesses.

It is also designed to provide opportunities for minority businesses to gain experience on contracts that would help them to more readily become prime contractors in the future.

The city has been working for the last six months to evaluate the existing MBE policy to see if changes or modifications need to be made. Recommendations will be brought to the City Commission later this month.

The minority businesses that were subcontractors on the projects being reviewed are also held responsible for meeting the requirements. The type and scope of the potential non-compliance issues vary by contractor.

"We have a process in place whereby the prime contractor and the MBE or DBE must submit signed affidavits that the work has been completed in accordance with the MBE policy," said Michael Parker, the assistant director of Economic and Community Development.

If the audit findings are sustained after receiving responses from the contractors, there are a range of penalties contractors could be subject to, from temporary or permanent suspension from bidding on city contracts to the assessment of damages (fines).

"The goal of the MBE program is to build minority businesses," said Michelle Bono, assistant to the city manager. "The city will always make sure that business is being done fairly."

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