JEFFERSON CITY - An inquiry by the Federal Highway Administration has found no evidence of discrimination in MoDOT's administration of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program. Rather, MoDOT was found to have several safeguards in place to ensure an unbiased and fair approach toward minority- and women-owned businesses.
"In summary, FHWA found no evidence of discrimination in MoDOT's administration of the DBE program. Goal setting and contract awards processes are designed to prevent discrimination with safeguards in place to ensure an unbiased approach to the enforcement of the DBE Program," according to the FHWA report.
Some of the safeguards cited by the FHWA include:
1. MoDOT has an External Civil Rights Division with a Director that is part of MoDOT's senior leadership team.
2. MoDOT's methodology for setting contract goals is sound and easily understood by FHWA. It meets DBE program requirements.
3. MoDOT evaluates all bids with related goals submittals and makes a determination as to whether the bid was responsive. If bids do not include the required goals, they are rejected.
4. MoDOT has a Reconsideration Hearing Committee to allow appeals from bidders that do not meet the contract goals before contract award.
5. MoDOT has an appeals process for contractors to appeal liquidated damages (percentage of payment) assessed when they fail to achieve the final DBE goal upon project completion.
6. MoDOT has a DBE Supportive Services Provider for outreach and assistance to the DBE Community. They use federal funds for this.
7. MoDOT has a Prompt Payment requirement in place that ensures DBE firms are reimbursed quickly for the work they perform.
8. MoDOT monitors compliance with the DBE program through a fully staffed HQs Division and dedicated staff throughout the state in each District office.
"MoDOT is taking action and making positive strides in addressing DBE utilization challenges and has been proactive in their efforts to increase communication with and between stakeholders," the report concluded.
Some recent efforts include community roundtable discussions for projects such as the New I-64 and the Mississippi River Bridge in St. Louis and kcICON, an upgrade of the I-29/I-35 connector route into downtown Kansas City. Two summits were also recently held to discuss challenges and find solutions for bringing more DBE firms, especially minority businesses, into the heavy highway construction industry.
The report also referenced several observations and related recommendations for how MoDOT can enhance its DBE program. The FHWA commended MoDOT for taking proactive approaches, such as preparing to conduct a new statewide availability and disparity study, improving DBE participation in projects and in developing a new contract special provision to ensure prime contractors understand the expectation in meeting DBE goals on major projects.
"We appreciate the FHWA's in-depth review of our DBE program," said MoDOT Director Pete Rahn. "We will not only continue to follow the federal requirements of the program, but also are committed to acting on the FHWA's recommendations for improving this program."
The FHWA's Missouri Division reported these findings in response to an inquiry they were asked to conduct by the United States Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General.
A copy of the FHWA's full report is available at www.modot.org/ecr.
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