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Contracts

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Government contracts are (or should be) based on the same principles as commercial contracting. A contract between a vendor or supplier and a unit of government must comply with the laws and regulations that permit it, and be made by a contracting officer with actual authority to make the contract.

In particular, it is important to avoid insider-dealing when a government is entering into contracts. Even at the local level, contracts can be for amounts in the tens of millions of dollars.

Contracts should be awarded to whichever corporation or individual can provide the highest quality work in the most cost-effective way. It's important to avoid granting contracts based on:

  • Patronage
  • Campaign contributions.
  • To friends and relatives of members of the governing commission that ultimately approves all contracts.

Evaluating government websites

Government websites should inform residents about:

  • Rules governing contracts.
  • Bids and contracts for purchases over $10,000, including the company, value, and dates.
  • We ask that these be separate from meeting minutes, located in a specific location on the site.
  • We also recommend that all active contracts be posted.

For schools we ask:

  • Teacher contacts or pay schedules be posted online.

Recommended:

  • Information about vendor campaign contributions should posted with contract information.

School contracts

Contracts with teachers and support staff
The school district's website should include a section where it provides comprehensive information about, and copies of, the school district's major contracts with employee organizations (unions) entitled to bargain collectively on behalf of teachers other instructional staff (e.g., school counselors) or on behalf of other employee groups (e.g., support personnel like classroom aides, secretaries or custodians).

Contracts with employee organizations typically account for at least half of total districts costs and, like construction programs, commit the district to maintaining agreed-upon payments over many years. In states where unions representing teachers have the legal right to strike, district websites should also include information on contract negotiations and proposed terms of future contracts, including:

  • Number of years the contract is proposed to remain in force
  • Salary schedules
  • Summary of health care benefits
  • Retirement incentives (bonuses, continuing health care coverage)
  • Days per year/hours per day worked
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Other personal benefits
  • Assessment of union dues for non-union members
  • A copy of the contract, if one exists, between the superintendent and the school district governing the terms of his or her employment, including salary information, job expectations, severance provisions and so on.


Contracts with vendors
The school district's website should include a section where it provides comprehensive information about, and copies of, the school district's major contracts with vendors and suppliers.

It is important to avoid insider-dealing when a government is entering into contracts. Even at the local level, contracts can be for amounts in the tens of millions of dollars.

Recommendations: Contracts should be awarded to whichever corporation or individual can provide the highest quality work in the most cost-effective way. It's important to avoid granting contracts based on:

  • Patronage
  • Campaign contributions.
  • To friends and relatives of members of the governing commission that ultimately approves all contracts.

What should be disclosed:

The school district's website should inform residents about:

  • Rules governing contracts.
  • Bids and contracts for purchases over $10,000.

See also