Competitive bids not required on DJS contracts

November 23, 2010

I am writing in response to articles published in The Sun last week about contracts presented to the Board of Public Works by the Department of Juvenile Services ("Still waiting for Superman," Nov. 21). I would like to clarify that the department's violation of procurement regulation was the failure to present the contracts to the Board of Public Works prior to issuance, not that there was no competitive bid process.

Maryland procurement regulations permit the state's child-serving agencies to procure both residential and non-residential services for children and youth without a competitive bid process for good reason. To the general public, it may appear that all programs are pretty much alike; and there are, in fact, many similarities among them. There are also significant differences between them; some obvious, others more subtle. It is often the nuances of a treatment model or intervention that makes one program a better fit for a particular youth than another program.

Contracting with a variety of programs allows the state the flexibility to make the best possible match for each youth. Crafting a request for proposals to capture all of the individual needs of youth would be virtually impossible, and then evaluating hundreds of potential proposals would be overwhelming for the offering agency. This has been made painfully evident by the Department of Human Resources RFP process that is not yet concluded over a year after release due to the magnitude and complexity of the task.

It is also important to note that, unlike other types of contracts, these purchase of care per diem contracts guarantee the provider nothing. The dollar amount listed in a contract is the maximum the provider can be paid if, and only if, the state places youth in the program. The state agency is under no obligation to place youth with any program. When youth are placed in a program, the provider is paid only for the days the youth is in the program, hence the term per diem.

Shelley L. Tinney, Columbia

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth.

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