California Announces Vendor Performance Ranking Pilot

At an industry forum on Dec. 1, California CIO Carlos Ramos announced plans to pilot the Contractor Evaluation Performance Scorecard system -- a controversial program that would rate and publish the performance of state contractors.

by / December 1, 2015
California CIO Carlos Ramos spoke at the TechWire State of Technology Industry Forum Tuesday in Sacramento. Eyragon Eidam/Government Technology

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California CIO Carlos Ramos announced plans to pilot a controversial program that would rate and publish the performance of state contractors at an industry forum on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

Ramos said the Contractor Evaluation Performance Scorecard system, which would take effect in 2016, will focus on whether vendors meet Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) throughout the term of contracts. These indicators include scope, schedule, quality and timeliness.      

“I do hear the complaints about how the state performs, but sometimes performance on the vendor side isn’t quite what we need it to be,” he said at the TechWire State of Technology - California Industry Forum. “One of the things we focused on over the last year is developing a performance rating system for contractors.”

In addition to the evaluation of their performance, the contractors’ scores would be published publicly.

“Our intent is to publish these key performance indicators and let folks know, before you come in, that we are going to be rating performance,” Ramos said. “Our intent is to bake these into RFPs and to bake them into project contracts as well, so that you know going in we’re going to be rating you …”

Some have called into question whether the program would put unnecessary strain on the relationship between state agencies and vendor partners. Opponents believe the plan could ultimately lead to damaged businesses that are given an unfair scorecard.

Carol Henton with the Information Technology Alliance for Public Sector said in a panel discussion that the state should also be held accountable with regard to how clearly project expectations are identified or how well projects are staffed.

Henton said staffing turnovers within agencies could impact how effective a vendor can be in meeting the requirements of a contract.

Jim Butler, chief procurement officer with the Department of General Services, said the state will address industry concerns as the process progresses.

“The state is going to provide due process. That’s a calling card of what we do, it’s part of our public contract code,” he said. “I think as the process rolls out, you’ll see that happens.”

Butler went on to say that the scorecard could offer additional benefits for bidders by streamlining the repetitive reference process.

“This is going to become your set of references,” he said. “This how you can become 100 percent referenceable for future bids. We’ve had a really hard time using ourselves, meaning the state, as a reference in the past. This is going to allow us to really learn from ourselves and how we perform.”

Despite opponent concerns about the program, Ramos said the siloed nature of state government makes tracking habitual low performers across the various agencies difficult.

“We do need to track performance, because it’s true there are two sides to every issue, but at times we do run into situations where our contractors just don’t perform to the level that we negotiated or agreed to, and we have to be able to track that and monitor that.”

He said agencies will be held responsible for conducting fair and objective evaluations, and the platform will allow for vendors to dispute scores they do not agree with. The CIO believes it will improve performance from both state agencies and industry.

“From my perspective, I think it’s going to improve performance on both sides,” he said.

Assembly Bill 522, which would have required the Department of Technology to create the performance scoring system, was vetoed in October by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Ramos said a forum will be held at 9 a.m. on Dec. 10 at the Department of General Services auditorium to gather input from state and industry stakeholders.

“The idea will be once we get your feedback, then we’re going to go out and test drive it, we’re going to pilot it and probably make some more adjustments, and then start using it on a pretty regular basis moving forward.”

Other states have looked at similar contractor performance evaluation systems, but a federal program has been in place for quite some time. 

Eyragon Eidam Web Editor

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as  assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at eeidam@erepublic.com.