When it comes to city procurement, Philadelphia has established itself as a leader on the vanguard in recent years. It’s rare that a procurement program attracts the interest of major media organizations, but Philly’s Fast FWD program has often done just that, with plaudits coming in from NPR and others. The program serves as both a small business incubator and an innovation hub for the city, funding entrepreneurs with solutions to the city’s problems. And earlier this year, Philadelphia rolled out a new, open-source procurement website called Dispatch, which makes it much easier for small businesses to find and be notified of upcoming opportunities.
But sometimes innovation doesn’t require new tools or even new ideas. It just means updating from old ways of doing things. That’s why the Philadelphia City Council is considering a bill that would make public works contracts awarded on the basis of “best value,” rather than simply awarding to the lowest qualified bidder. Of course, this is an ongoing conversation everywhere in the public sector, including the federal government, which has struggled with the proper use of the lowest-price, technically acceptable (LPTA) approach. But for Philadelphia, it’s about giving authorities flexibility and the capability to make informed decisions.
“The rules of procurement haven’t been changed since 1951, since the charter was adopted,” said Rebecca Rhynhart, the city’s chief administrative officer. “So there are obvious opportunities for modernization… We need to be better. We need to be more effective and more efficient.”