Transparency in contracts benefits city

Published 12:08am Friday, May 10, 2013

The City of Natchez got its hand slapped a few months back after improperly handling garbage collection and disposal bids.

One of the losing waste disposal companies sued the city; now Natchez must rebid the contract.

Natchez aldermen discussed the matter earlier this week, however, what was said at their meeting has us concerned.

Despite the court-ordered “do-over,” it appears the city seems intent that details of the bid process should not be on top of the table.

The process seems simple. If city leaders believe all likely bidders are capable of handling the work — and we have seen no indication to the contrary — shouldn’t city leaders simply seek the lowest-cost bid?

Read the bids out in public as they’re unsealed, and all members of the public would be informed.

Instead, city attorney Hyde Carby said Wednesday that details of the new garbage contract bids would not be publicly disclosed until after the city awards the contract.

Aldermen said they want additional, non-price negotiations to occur with the company that submits the best price. Those negotiations would include free garbage collection on public property and other special services.

Logically, this makes no sense, unless political favoritism, other promises or deals are at play.

Think about it: once the city sits down with a bidder, the company will know they’re the lowest bidder and thus have no incentive to offer much more, unless additional threats or cajoling is planned.

Natchez would do well to simply seek to have the bids opened in public, above board and be done with the matter.

Transparency in government is a beautiful thing that can instantly clear away the smell of impropriety.