Construction projects managed by San Francisco’s city agencies need better transparency, oversight and controls.
That’s according to a Civil Grand Jury report, “San Francisco’s City Construction Program: It Needs Work,” released Thursday that makes numerous recommendations for how The City can better manage construction projects identified within its $25 billion 10-year capital plan.
The report reviewed the six city departments that have authority to contract for projects: the Port Commission, the Airport Commission, the Public Utilities Commission, the Recreation and Park Department, the Municipal Transportation Agency and Department of Public Works, although the report primarily focuses on Public Works.
Among the most critical issues highlighted in the report is the method in which The City selects contractors. While some projects allow for the contractor to provide input in the pre-construction phase of the project to simplify the process, thus reducing construction costs, most of The City’s projects are awarded to the lowest bidder.
Mohammed Nuru, director of Public Works, said he supports creating a better system for evaluating contractors.
“Bringing uniformity across departments in contracting for all projects is a great idea,” Nuru said.
The report also noted that construction management processes that address various aspects of projects, including change orders (work that is added to or removed from the original scope of work of a contract), need to be better monitored and measured.
Other recommendations in the report include addressing The City’s out-of-date technology and “weak” construction management systems infrastructure, as well as calling for the Board of Supervisors to take a more active role in the oversight of construction projects.
In fact, the report concluded that perhaps its most important recommendation is that the Board of Supervisors should request that all city departments maintain contract information in a uniform manner that will be regularly reported to the Board.
“The lack of [Board of Supervisors] oversight of all city construction contracts and the lack of independent oversight of [Department of Public Works] department construction projects should be remedied,” the report states.
Such recommendations came as no surprise to Michael Theriault, secretary-treasurer of the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, who noted that better oversight is valued by construction and trades workers.
“Generally things that benefit The City also benefit us,” Theriault said. “[When] contracting is more transparent, contractors are more responsible.”