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Panel to tell Dinkins to replace Vendex system.

On the eve of launching a progressive minority- and women-owned business enterprise program, a task force is recommending the city shelve its controversial computer system for reviewing contractors and create a totally new and comprehensive system.

The system known as "Vendex", helps city agencies determine the prior history and reliability of contractors.

Michael C. Rogers, director of the Mayor's Office of Contracts, and Constance Cushman, executive director of the city's procurement policy board co-chaired the Task Force.

"The task force working on a city wide procurement information system has concluded it is essential for the city to develop a comprehensive system for managing procurement and that it should start right away," Cushman said. "The report recommends the city begin by re-engineering the procurement process and computerize a good way of doing it rather than a process way."

City officials agree that the new system, the acronym ICPMS, should not be tailored to the current system. That computer has been described gingerly as "an imperfect system."

Vendex, controlled by Rogers' office, maintains information on contracts of $100,000 or more and primarily is targeted to the credibility of the contractors' business. "It verifies they are not criminals and as to their background," said one city official who asked not to be identified. "That will not monitor the women and minority program but just does general monitoring." He added that agencies access the information to, determine if there is a note of caution in the file. These notes of caution, contractors charge, have also wrongfully been placed.

Vendex also does not have a place to note the contractor did a good job. "Would you want to pay for that?" asked the city official.

Frank McArdle, general director of the General Contractors Association, said he has concerns about Vendex, because "they ask for more and more." McArdle said some information is not relevant for the city's interest, or cannot be gathered easily. "They are simply burdening the firms with paperwork in the front that would discourage them with a paperwork nightmare. They should minimize it," he said.

The city, Cushman said, is planning to make its qualification, forms for all contractors, including minority and women owned businesses, identical with those used by the State and Port Authority in a move toward reciprocity. Even though New York City is expected to screen its own applicants, if a business is already certified by the state or Port Authority, they will not have to be recertified.

In the past, McArdle said, everyone has resisted having a single qualification point. "But if you are a minority or a woman it would make it easier," he added.

While the entities have not yet agreed on a single qualification, "they are at the point of making the processes similar," Cushman said. The agencies would also have to agree on who does the auditing, who does the screening and who would detect people who do not perform well.

"There is no method for routine exchange of performance information," Cushman explained. Since this is really a logistical situation, she said, "soon there will be a terminal in Michael Rogers' office where anyone could go in and look up a contractor."

While details of the new system will be developed over the next few months, it is planned that the ICPMS will follow procurement from "start to finish."

Cushman said ICPMS will be essential to have for the new minority program.

Andrew Lowenthal, a spokesperson for City Councilwoman Carolyn B. Maloney who heads the Contracts Committee, said they are going to be looking at ways to expand the number of smaller firms that seek city contracts. "How do you convince the smaller businesses to bid and learn about the contracts?," he asked, noting that the broader problem is the perception that the system is closed. In addition, he said, "People don't get paid promptly and its hard to fill out the paperwork."
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Title Annotation:New York, New York mayor David N. Dinkins; Vendex computer software system
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Mar 11, 1992
Words:650
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