Ensuring Equity in Government Contracting During a Time of Crisis

Posted June 20, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Learn how governments can transform their procurement processes to improve job prospects in low-income neighborhoods

A hand­out fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion explains how gov­ern­ments can trans­form their pro­cure­ment process­es — the sys­tems they use to award con­tract work — to improve job prospects and busi­ness devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties in low-income neigh­bor­hoods and com­mu­ni­ties of color.

Local and state gov­ern­ments spend rough­ly $2 tril­lion on goods and ser­vices each year. Much of this total excludes busi­ness­es in his­tor­i­cal­ly dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties — an omis­sion that deprives these areas of key eco­nom­ic and wealth-build­ing resources, accord­ing to The Pow­er of Inclu­sive Pro­cure­ment,” pro­duced by the non­prof­it Jobs to Move Amer­i­ca.

One solu­tion? Adopt­ing inclu­sive pro­cure­ment prac­tices, which can gen­er­ate jobs and improve access to pub­lic con­tracts for com­pa­nies owned by women and peo­ple of col­or as well as com­pa­nies locat­ed in low-income neigh­bor­hoods. Such prac­tices can help gov­ern­ments address eco­nom­ic and racial dis­par­i­ties that have per­sist­ed for decades, the hand­out says.

Recent events have exposed large inequities in our soci­ety, as we see how com­mu­ni­ties of col­or are dis­pro­por­tion­al­ly impact­ed by a major pub­lic health emer­gency and eco­nom­ic tur­moil and are unfair­ly treat­ed by the crim­i­nal-jus­tice sys­tem,” says Scot Spencer asso­ciate direc­tor of local pol­i­cy for the Casey Foun­da­tion. In this time of cri­sis, it’s impor­tant that gov­ern­ments ana­lyze all the sys­tems they have at their dis­pos­al — includ­ing their pro­cure­ment process­es — to address the under­ly­ing issues that cause these disparities.”

Accord­ing to the hand­out, inclu­sive pro­cure­ment pro­grams include:

  • pub­lic out­reach by gov­ern­ment agen­cies, such as pre-bid con­fer­ences in which con­tract oppor­tu­ni­ties are dis­cussed before busi­ness­es sub­mit proposals;
  • trans­par­ent sys­tems, which make it easy to access requests for pro­pos­als and infor­ma­tion on which com­pa­nies receive con­tracts; and
  • account­abil­i­ty mea­sures and met­rics, such as set­ting goals for award­ing con­tracts to busi­ness­es owned by peo­ple of col­or, women and low-income peo­ple as well as track­ing jobs cre­at­ed in dis­ad­van­taged communities.

In addi­tion, inclu­sive pro­cure­ment pro­grams could offer men­tor­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to women busi­ness own­ers and busi­ness own­ers of col­or. They could also adjust their prac­tices — such as pri­or­i­tiz­ing qual­i­ty and val­ue of goods and ser­vices over low costs — to help small busi­ness­es com­pete for con­tracts, the hand­out says.

The doc­u­ment also offers guid­ance to small busi­ness own­ers, includ­ing how to request infor­ma­tion on a pub­lic agency’s ven­dor reg­is­tra­tion poli­cies, con­tract terms, and efforts to assist busi­ness­es owned by peo­ple of col­or and women.

Inclu­sive pro­cure­ment links pub­lic spend­ing to goals for eco­nom­ic vital­i­ty, social progress, diver­si­ty and inclu­sion, and envi­ron­men­tal qual­i­ty,” Spencer says. We hope this hand­out will act as an intro­duc­tion to this impor­tant con­cept and be a cat­a­lyst for gov­ern­ments to make changes.”

Learn about efforts to expand eco­nom­ic inclu­sion in Baltimore

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