ITE Journal - January 2020 - 28

| ethics forum

Is Cheaper Right?
The member
will not engage in
competitive practices
contrary to the law.

Facts
River City has a pedestrian trail that regularly floods and detours users onto an adjacent street
with increased safety risk. The city has selected a firm on their pre-qualified, on-call engineering services list to study the problem and identify potential safety options. Ms. Designer
selected from the on-call list was asked to prepare a scope and budget for the project. A few
days later, Ms. Designer contacted the city transportation engineer and is advised that the
project was given to Firm No. 2 also from the on-call list at a lower price. River City normally
selects engineering consultants under a qualifications based selection (QBS) process and it
was assumed that the pre-qualification for the on-call engineering services was based on
their QBS practices.
Ms. Designer was not advised that this small project was being "shopped around" and that
price was part of the selection process. Accordingly, Ms. Designer has several options:
1. Report the city to the engineering licensing board for unethical and non-QBS
procurement.
2. Contact local engineering organizations for their assistance in correcting the city procurement practices.
3. Advise the city transportation engineer that she is disappointed with the selection process and question the departure from the QBS practices.
4. Ignore the problem with the hope that she is selected for the next project.

Questions
1.
2.
3.

Of the above options, which would be the best approach for Ms. Designer?
What action could Ms. Designer have taken to improve the selection process?
What are the ethical concerns of their selection process?

Discussion

IR Stone/shutterstock.com

It would appear that the city deviated from their normal practices (QBS) for the on-call list.
For the original solicitation, the city likely considered capability, experience, creativity and
suitability as noted in Canons of Ethics for a firm to be listed in the on-call engineering
services list. This is consistent with legal requirements in most states
and local jurisdictions. Because most on-call contracts involve
multiple firms, an agency should have an established a
method for selection either utilizing
the qualifications already on file
or a mini-request for proposals
(RFP), a few pages in length.
The assignment of tasks
under the on-call con-

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ITE Journal - January 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ITE Journal - January 2020

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