Problems in DC — You need to have your vendor in your office


Problems in DC — You need to have your vendor in your office

There’s an expose going on in DC.  Seems ACS is having some issues with the city and in the end, an audit has turned up some cost problems.  These most likely have nothing to do with how ACS is running the project, but how the contract is written. Read about it here.

Here’s the money quote:

The auditors found that the D.C. Department of Transportation, which is
responsible for keeping tabs on ACS, "generally was uninformed and
disengaged from the details and quality of the contractor’s

My experience is that this is the single biggest problem in our industry, and very little is done about it. The owners (in this case Washington DC) aren’t engaged with the vendor (in this case ACS.)  The vendor goes on about its business in a vacuum. The owner receives a check from time to time and if the amount is about what it thinks it should be, the owner is happy. End of story.

I spoke with Rick Decker at Minneapolis Airport the other day and he was telling me about a program where the Airport is intimate involved with its vendor, in this case a parking operator. They are so close that when Rick noticed that there were no candidates to take over the manager’s position if the manager left, that he caused the operator to bring a couple of senior people in to be in the "bullpen." Although at the time RIck had no clue the manager was going to leave, he felt that any scenario including "hit by a bus" could happen, and that they should be ready. Sure enough, a few months later the manager’s wife got an "offer she couldn’t refuse" and they moved. Rick’s close relationship with the operator prevented a disaster.

As owners we need to work hand in glove with out vendors. In the DC case, had the Department of Transportation and ACS worked closely together, many of the issues noted in the auditor’s report would have been noticed and fixed" if necessary at a low lever and would never have been discussed on the front page of the local paper.  Working as if the vendor is part of your team is important.

This is true as much with operators as it is with equipment vendors and other suppliers.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

One Response

  1. What is it with government parking contracts and the agencies in DC responsible for their oversight? This sounds like the Penn Parking/WMATA fight a few years back (different circumstances, but still the result of nobody paying attention).

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