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To improve the District’s contracting process, Mayor Muriel Bowser has established a new oversight board under the Office of Contracting and Procurement.

The Procurement Accountability Review Board, which met for the first time this month, will review all contracts requiring retroactive approval and decisions to overturn contract actions that conflict with existing laws in the city. Bowser announced the board this morning at a breakfast with the D.C. Council.

“The goal of the Board is not to consider each potential problem with the contracting process or each potential contracting error,” an order announcing the board’s creation states. “Instead, the goal of the Board is to select matters that, when reviewed and resolved, are likely to result in substantial, widespread, or long-term improvements to the contracting process.”

The board’s creation could be an important step in reducing the amount of money spent on retroactive change orders, particularly in the construction of schools in the District.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” Chairman Phil Mendelson said. “We can figure out what changes need to occur so we don’t need retroactive approvals.”

The board also released a report that dissected the root causes of the 21 most recent retroactive change orders, which ranged in cost from $1.2 to $338 million. Although many contracts required retroactive approval because of changes in the law, extenuating circumstances, and changes in project requirements, the biggest reason has been faulty planning and coordination between District offices.

The board will meet quarterly and issue a report of the last quarter’s findings, which the board will then send to the Council. PARB’s next meeting will be in September.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery