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Editorials

Minority contracting: Paying lip service

| Tuesday, June 26, 2012, 9:01 p.m.

Talk about a cluster cluck.

Pittsburgh's supposed dedication to helping minority and women contractors win city construction and procurement contracts might just be lip service.

As the Trib's Bob Bauder reported on Tuesday, tracking efforts are shoddy at best. The mayor's office isn't on top of it. And neither is the city's Equal Opportunity Review Commission, an office with six employees and a nearly $267,000 annual budget.

Oh, there are numbers, such as from a 2011 report that say Pittsburgh exceeded its goals of 18 percent minority and 7 percent female participation in contracts valued at $195 million. But critics have little faith in the numbers, considering they're based only on let contracts with no follow-up.

And here's the real kicker: EORC boss Phillipe Petite says the annual report never was meant to show actual participation, never mind the law. City Controller Michael Lamb is finding that the numbers don't add up.

Some wonder if Pittsburgh has returned to the bad old days of two decades ago — “pass-through” contracts that made minority and women contractors paid-off “fronts” for others. Given the lack of accurate tracking, reasonable people could wonder if Pittsburgh never left those days.

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