- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2001

The D.C. police department has overspent about $500,000 on police car repairs over the past six months because police officials failed to renegotiate a contract with the private company that maintains the departments vehicles.
Eric Coard, the departments director of corporate support, acknowledged Thursday that the contract with Serco Management Services Inc. has not been changed, even though he testified before the D.C. Council in October that the department was "in the process" of changing the contract to save money.
Serco now charges the department a "fixed flat rate" for labor — based on a rate set by the industry — instead of charging the department the actual hours worked by mechanics. Serco is now paid about $70,000 more than its actual labor costs each month, company and police sources said.
The current contract allows Serco to charge the Metropolitan Police Department at least $175 for annual preventive maintenance service on each police car.
But Sercos records show that not much more than an oil change and a brake inspection was done on at least one vehicle. The records show that on repairs to a 1999 Ford Taurus with 1,800 miles, Serco charged the police department for four hours of labor at $34 an hour even though the mechanic did only 90 minutes of work.
"Most of the people in the police department were ignorant of how the contract was written. It was like a kid in the candy store for us," said a former Serco employee.
Mr. Coard justified the extra costs as part of a complete, preventive maintenance service performed annually. He said he was not aware that Serco mechanics inspect a car and make repairs only when they find a defect.
Sercos manager, Dave Tetreault, has repeatedly refused to comment.
The company began repairing city vehicles in September 1999 under a contract originated by the General Services Administration, which advertised and negotiated the contract for the police department to expedite hiring a private company.
Mr. Coard said the department is trying to change to a city contract, which would give the police department more control. He said the citys Office of Contracting and Procurement has caused the delays in renegotiating the contract.
But Serco sources familiar with the contract said only in the last two weeks has there been any effort by the police department or GSA to have the company charge for the actual hours worked rather than charging labor by the job.
Janis Bolt, associate director for the D.C. Office of Contract and Procurement, said yesterday that GSA did not notify her office about converting the contract from a federal to a city contract until March 27. She said her office prepared the documents and sent them to the D.C. Corporation Counsel for approval on March 29. They were returned to her office on April 30 and then delivered to police officials.
D.C. Council members also are questioning the delay in getting the contract changed.
Council member Kathy Patterson, chairman of the councils Judiciary Committee, sent Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey a letter Monday asking him the status of renegotiating the contract so the department will be charged for the actual number of hours worked.
"As you know, the contract allows for this change in that it states that 'one year after the date of award and by mutual agreement of the parties, all or portions of this contract may be renegotiated to establish firm, fixed prices for the balance of the contract period," Mrs. Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, wrote in her letter.
Mrs. Patterson also asked for documentation of any written policies or procedures for monitoring the contract, establishment of an auditable inventory system, and measures the department has made to begin rebidding the contract. The D.C. Council has recommended rebidding the contract, which can be terminated at the end of the fiscal year, but the police department has not yet begun the process.
The Judiciary Committee began looking into the Serco contract after The Washington Times found that the $3.5 million contract was almost $1 million over budget. The Times has also found that about $300,000 worth of usable automobile parts were sold as scrap and that the mismanagement of the contract has cost the department about $1 million.
The GSA inspector general also found that the contract was poorly managed by police department officials.
Serco creates a repair order each time a police car is brought in for service.
The mechanic fills out a hand-written sheet of each task performed, which includes the amount of time spent on the repair and the parts used. The information is used to determine the cost of the repairs to the police department.
About 30 requisitions are produced daily, but police department employees never review them. The department requires the requisitions, but after they are processed by Serco, they are placed in a file drawer at the police garage at 1501 S. Capitol St. SW.
"They dont know what they look like. They dont check any thing," said one police department employee. "They pay whatever Serco wants to charge them."

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