When the New Pittsburgh Courier broke the story about the inaccuracies contained in the Pittsburgh Equal Opportunity Review Commission’s 2011 Annual Report, city Controller Michael Lamb said he was disturbed by revelations of non-existent six-figure minority contracts, but as he had just begun a performance audit of the commission, he’d find out what happened.

On Aug. 16, he released his findings, saying the city is not committed to the commission and its mission and has failed “miserably” in ensuring minority participation in contracting.

“This audit shows that no enforcement exists to ensure that minority and women owned businesses within the city of Pittsburgh are given fair contracting opportunities,” he said. “The annual report produced by the EORC gives the public a false picture of the how Pittsburgh is doing when it comes to fairly awarding contracts to minority and women owned businesses.”

Lamb’s audit confirmed, as the Courier reported in June, that once the commission approved a developer’s Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprise participation plan, the contracts were never monitored for compliance.

Lamb recommended the EORC Director Phil Petite and his staff be more proactive in collecting and entering utilization figures into their reports, and that they, authority EEOC staff, and personnel from the city Public Works Department, Planning Department and the Controllers office conduct joint worksite and contract audits to see that listed M/WBE are, in fact working.

He also found that though the commission’s reports were issued in a timely manner, they were not delivered to the mayor, the controller and city council as required by the city code. Instead they were sent to various city department and authority heads.

Petite has already said he has directed city departments that he will not approve future plans they submit unless he has final utilization figures on hiring from current and previous jobs.

But he cannot do that to the authorities and must wait to get their utilization numbers.

Lamb recommended that the EORC and its partners should share an electronic financial system so that data contracts and payments can be quickly collected. He also said the commissions reports should be prepared and distributed in electronic form.

The audit wasn’t entirely critical, as Lamb noted that Petite and his staff had compiled an impressive database of MWDBE contractors. He also noted the commission is uniquely suited to administer the city’s Veteran-owned small business assistance program, and that it should be the city’s first point of contact for all small business.

Responding to the report, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s spokesperson Joanna Doven said the charge that the mayor is not committed to minority contracting is wrong, and suggested blaming the mayor was a political shot, as Lamb may again run for the office next year.

Doven noted the mayor has demonstrated a commitment to increasing diversity in city government through a number of programs and workshops. She also said the newest police academy class boasting two African-Americans, is the most diverse in a decade. (See story by Rebecca Nuttall.)

City Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess has introduced legislation to create a Department of Equal Opportunity to address the contracting shortcomings. African American Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Doris Carson Williams said she and her members support the initiative and are forwarding suggestions to Burgess.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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