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Mike Suarez: We need to get this right



As Tampa City Hall sorts through bids to take over a troubled contract for commercial solid waste hauling, city officials say the new contract will be written to reduce the chances of future overcharges.

After receiving $1.2 million to settle a claim that Waste Management overcharged the city for five years, Tampa officials recently sought bids from haulers interested in picking up garbage from local businesses.

Six bids came in, and now the city intends to award a three-year contract to Republic Services of Florida — a company that was overpaid more than $1.5 million by Polk County over seven years.

But this would not be a switch with here-we-go-again overtones, Tampa officials say.

That's because an internal audit in Polk County put the blame for excess payments on government officials, not Republic. Auditors concluded that county officials overpaid Republic from 2006 to 2012 because vacant lots or lots where contractors had pulled building permits, but not yet built anything were included on a county-generated list of residences to be billed for solid waste pickup.

In contrast, Tampa officials say a preliminary audit showed that Waste Management overcharged the city $1.4 million from 2008 to 2012. (Waste Management says the overpayments resulted from the city providing inaccurate information at the start of the billing process.)

Meanwhile, city officials say the next contract, expected to go to the City Council on April 4, should have more controls over how often invoices are reconciled, better scrutiny of  the billing process and a requirement that the hauler's trucks use GPS technology that allows the city to track pickups.

"We have a lot more controls in this invitation to bid, which makes for a much better business relationship than we had before," said Mike Herr, Tampa's public works and utility services administrator.

It better be, one council member says.

“I’m going to make damned sure that our guys make sure that they’re billing us correctly,” said Mike Suarez, who chairs the public works committee of the City Council. “If I see another audit like we saw before I’m not going to be happy.”

Full story here.

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 1:31pm]


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