I’ve been writing about a proposal to subject city contractors to public records laws, which a contracting representative recently said would be used by contractors to wage warfare on each other by underbidding their competitors.

That prompted one reader to wonder why that would be a bad thing since that would mean lower prices paid by the city. He wrote:

It seems that a reduced cost for the services would be beneficial.

An architect with years of experience in the public bid environment had a different view. This person, who asked to go unnamed, works for the public sector and sent me this e-mail:

Underbid contracts can be just as costly as “padded” bids and often cost even more. Allowing open access to previously confidential information could create an environment where all players will intentionally underbid. If projects are underbid, someone is probably losing money. During the construction process that someone will be looking for a way to make up the loss. The reader does not realize that despite the initial good news at bid time, the change order requests will roll through and the project will cost the same if not higher than anticipated.

The bid environment should be “level” and tilting the table so that everyone under bids the work does no one – particularly taxpayers – any favors.


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