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April 17, 2021

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Camas-Washougal port dinged in audit

Picking firms from a roster doesn’t meet federal requirements

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

The Port of Camas-Washougal didn’t follow the federally required request for proposal process when it selected two firms from a pre-qualified list of contractors for services relating to the Steigerwald Commerce Center, according to a chiding report from the Washington State Auditor’s Office.

In 2017, the port spent $1.2 million in federal funds on the Steigerwald Commerce Center Building Number 18 construction project. Just under $135,000 of that was used to pay Johansson Architecture, P.C., of Battle Ground and MacKay Sposito of Vancouver for architectural and engineering services on the roughly 50,000 square foot building.

“The Port’s controls were not adequate to ensure its solicitation and award of these contracts complied with the federal procurement requirements,” the report states. “Instead of soliciting contractor proposals via public advertisement as required, the port selected contractors for further evaluation from a roster of pre-qualified firms it had on hand. Selecting firms from a roster of pre-qualified firms does not meet the federal requirements to advertise.”

Port Executive Director David Ripp said port staff followed state guidelines for securing professional contractor services, but wasn’t aware the federal requirements required an extra step, adding that it was a procedural error. He said funds weren’t misspent, and the port kept proper documentation.

“It’s the first time we ever got a federal grant. The minute we figured out the issue we changed procedure,” he said. “It won’t even affect us for future federal grants.”

He also said the Economic Development Administration, the agency that issued the grant, signed off on the port’s documents.

The port maintains a professional service roster, which is updated annually. The port is aware that its consultants haven’t been debarred, but the port failed to tell at least one of its contractors that the contractors are responsible for ensuring subcontractors haven’t been suspended or debarred from federal programs.

As a result, three of 25 subcontractors were not verified for suspension and debarment, the report states. Without controlling for disbarment, the port couldn’t guarantee federal money only went to eligible companies.

That said, state auditors found all subcontractors were eligible so they didn’t examine those costs further.

The auditors recommended port staff understand federal grant requirements better, take steps to ensure contractors hired with federal funds are properly hired, and inform contractors about their responsibility to check disbarment status of subcontractors.

In it’s response, the port said staff, “was diligent in doing its best to follow federal requirements,” but given the errors, “has completed corrective action through policy changes so that this won’t happen in the future.”

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