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By a whopping 116-0 margin, the N.C. House of Representatives yesterday passed House Bill 1043 (“HB 1043”), aimed at bringing objectivity and uniformity to the prequalification of contractors on public construction projects in the Tar Heel State.
Don’t let yesterday’s vote tally deceive you, however; the legislation was not without its share of controversy.
Senator Neal Hunt, Chair, and Representative Dean Arp, House Co-Chair, helm the Purchase and Contract Study Committee, which is currently considering prequalification reform in North Carolina.
Statutes governing the procurement of public construction contracts are intended to promote honest and open bidding procedures, thereby placing interested contractors on an equal footing when competing for the work. A Pennsylvania court observed way back in 1908 that it is the duty of public awarding authorities “to see that the purposes aimed at by the laws shall be effected in good faith.”
Many contractors are skeptical that standard is being met in North Carolina.
As I’ve previously written, a number of prime contractors recently testified before the General Assembly’s Purchase and Contract Study Committee about how the statute permitting prequalification of bidders is often misused so that certain contractors are favored over others, particularly in the construction management at-risk context. The opportunity for misuse arises from the utter lack of any statutory direction for exercising the right to prequalify under existing law (click image below for larger version):
Thankfully, the Committee appears ready to recommend extensive and significant modifications to this bare-bones statute.
With last year’s passage of House Bill 857 in the North Carolina General Assembly, public contracting agencies in the Tar Heel State have no shortage of project delivery methods from which to choose. From design-bid-build to construction management at-risk, design-build, design-build bridging and P3s, our state statutes now authorize a veritable cornucopia of options for procuring public construction contracts.
But the following tweet from ENR’s Tom Sawyer earlier this week got me wondering: is the state overlooking another viable procurement option?