By Jackie Hardy
NDG Contributing Writer
Irving Independent School District (Irving ISD) is gradually moving forward on the recommendations made by the Irving Education Coalition (IEC) on the development of its Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) and Disadvantage Minority and Women Business Enterprise (D/M/WBE) program.
In 2008, a memorandum of understanding was signed and submitted to the Department of Justice Community Relations Service where the Irving ISD and the IEC agreed to work together to resolve perceptions of inequality and excluding of people based on race, color, gender, and ethnicity.
Anthony Bond, IEC chairperson, said Irving ISD has made strides in satisfying many of the recommendations documented in the memorandum. Bond said he is pleased with the district fulfilling the following recommendations: join North Central Texas Regional Certification Agency; adopt a D/M/WBE policy; and work toward an active D/ M/WBE program where one of its goals will be to offer outreach initiatives in the effort of increasing participation of D/M/WBE’s.
“I can honestly say for the first time that I believe the Irving Independent School District has the superintendent and an assistant superintendent whose over finance and procurement that is really committed along with our board to ensure they put an active M/WBE program in place, and I believe they are working feverishly to accomplish that,” Bond said.
Lack of communication regarding upcoming contract opportunities continues to be a complaint among minority business owners and vendors. Gregory Lee, president of DFW Fire Protection Inc., a local minority owned business who won a $5.2 million contract with the city of Irving to design and install commercial fire sprinklers for the new Irving Convention Center, suggest district representatives need to get out more in the community (i.e. Hispanic, Irving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce) and give an outline on what is coming down the pipeline to ensure businesses – specifically within the minority community – are given ample opportunity to bid on upcoming contracts.
“The worst thing is there are projects going on that I might see and it never went out on the street,” Lee said. “The high school is being renovated, and I haven’t heard anything about it and when I go to the Black Contractors Association or any get-togethers where normally you have someone from the school district speaking about upcoming projects—we haven’t heard anything about these projects.”
According to Irving ISD’s goals for participation, “20 percent of all qualified D/M/WBEs and HUB vendors and of which, a goal of 10 percent will be certified of annual controllable procurement expenditures which are defined as agreements between the IISD and a contractor to provide or procure labor, materials, equipment, supplies, and services to, for or on behalf of the district.”
In 2010, the district conducted an internal audit to determine a baseline participation level of HUB and D/M/WBE vendors based on data from the Texas Comptroller’s Office list of HUB’s from the Centralized Master Bidders List, NCTRCA and South Central Texas Regional Agency Certification. Debbie Cabrera, associate superintendent of business services, said the district is unable to provide current-to date numbers on the purchasing activity of its HUB and D/M/WBE program because the software application it has in place is in its infancy stage. Once minority vendors are registered on the Munis® Vendor Self-Serve, Cabrera said they will be able to provide accurate data based on, but not limited to the parameters reflected in the internal audit report.
According to the internal audit review obtained by North Dallas Gazette, 6.6 percent of the $73,391,580 total expenditures – excluding non-bidding operating expenditures and vendors who were paid under $1,000 – were allocated to certified HUB and D/M/WBE vendors. Expenditures were calculated to $4,836,673 in contracts awarded to minority vendors with the largest participation of procurement activity falling under capital outlay and supplies/materials.
It is noted in the report, due to time constraints, the internal auditor was unable to confirm the certification status of approximately 12 percent of the expenditures comprising to $10,052,176, equaling to about 840 vendors as well as complete the research of 2009-10 HUB and D/M/WBE vendors who were paid in excess of $1,000 estimating to approximately 1,600 vendors totaling to $10,360,000.
The categories and percentage breakdown of expenditures made to HUB and M/WBEs according to the internal audit review reported the following: professional and contracted services with 5 percent; supplies and materials at 27 percent; capital outlay at 67 percent; and other operating cost equating to 1 percent.
The internal audit also reflected the district’s construction activity provided by Charter Builders Inc., a company that specializes in construction management-at-risk, design-build and general contracting for public and private owners, with a primary emphasis on educational facilities. Based on the report, approximately 24 percent of construction jobs were subcontracted to HUB and D/M/WBE vendors from May 2008 through May 2010, translating to $23,205,572 of the $95,408,281.75 total amount of projects subcontracted to other vendors during that specified period of time.
Leveling the playing field is what many minority residents, leaders and community activist feel is a long time coming within Irving ISD. The perception of unfair practice for awarding contracts is a perception many minority business owners and residents have felt in years past.
“We’re not asking for quotas, we’re not asking for set-asides, we’re not asking for Affirmative Action. All we are asking them to do is treat us like every other human being that walks through those doors that have the goods, the services or professional skill set that can do business with the Irving Independent School District … just open the doors and equal the playing field,” Bond said.