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Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

(OP)
I'm wondering if it is ethical and/or lawful for a governmental regulatory agency to provide a list of private engineering firms.

To give a little more detail:
- civil engineering firms are typically hired to produce designs and specifications related to residential dwelling construction in this particular region ( California). It is my understanding that any professional engineer licensed in the state is qualified to provide these services.
- the property owner initially contacts the regulatory agency to figure out the general process of land development
- the regulatory agency then provides a list (4 or 5) of private engineering firms and essentially implies to the property owner that he must hire a firm from the list and if a firm is not on the list that firm is not qualified.

I'm wondering if there is an ethical dilemma here or perhaps some legal statue restricting the government agency from providing a list and essentially recommending private engineering firms?

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

I don't see how providing a list of firms they know to be qualified is a problem. But if they state or imply that those firms are the only ones acceptable, that would be wrong, probably in violation of some trade law.

It sounds like you are not on the list. Have you been told specifically that you are excluded?

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

I think that getting on that list would be very profitable. Maybe profitable enough to cause someone to build a swimming pool for the clerk who maintains it? Personally I would never use someone from a list provided by the government, and I would certainly question the very existence of such a list unless it contained every P.E. in the state. A selective list of 4 or 6 is just begging for graft. It is way more than unethical.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

Quote:

- civil engineering firms are typically hired to produce designs and specifications related to residential dwelling construction in this particular region ( California). It is my understanding that any professional engineer licensed in the state is qualified to provide these services.

Incorrect. To sell engineering services to the public in any niche, an engineer has to have years of experience in that particular niche. A civil/structural PE cannot simply start selling into the residential market with experience only in commercial design.

As to the government providing lists or recommendations of private businesses to use, yes, that is unethical and quite often illegal. I would expect any govt employee doing so to lose their job and be barred from future work in government at a minimum.

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

(OP)
Thanks for the replies. My firm is actually the first on the list. I'm wondering your thoughts because it just doesn't seem right for a governmental agency to provide this list and I don't feel the best getting referrals this way, and if the list just wasn't there at all, I think my firm would come up on people's search elsewhere very easily. But, if I ask to be removed from the list then I think we'd loose a lot of work. If I can show the agency that it is in fact illegal or something actually showing it's unethical, then I won't lose the work and the customers would be better off.

Does anyone have any thoughts on how it might be illegal for the agency to provide the list? I have looked through a bunch of information on the subject and it seems that everything I see just says something like, it doesn't seem right.

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

(OP)
@CWB1 I intended that comment you are referring to too mean, every professional engineer is qualified, that doesn't necessarily mean competent and in turn not necessarily capable of doing the work. I intended that comment from the eyes of a regulatory review standpoint, not from the eyes of an ethical professional engineer you seem to be.

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

I suggest you request a statement on the list with words to the effect


Here are some project engineers that have experience and knowledge in this area. These are firms that we work with on a regular basis.

Hydrae

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

In Las Vegas, only certain entities are considered acceptable to do Special Inspections in the City. This occurred because there were issues (possibly scapegoating and perceived) with Special Inspections with some workers getting killed.
Even though our firm isn't on the list, I feel that the qualification list is pretty transparent and fair, even though in most places any licensed engineer is considered qualified. We just don't think it's worth doing the paper work.
Is it possible that these firms just followed some procedure to get on the list? It seems incredibly cheeky to do it otherwise.

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

In Yorba Linda, there's a list of contractors that are qualified to perform the residential backflow valve testing that's required every year. I assume there's some sort of song and dance that they have to perform to get on the list.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

Being from the other side of the coin (I'm a government worker), I would like to see a copy of the list or link to the website containing this list. I would not be surprised if this list was generated because the agency was constantly asked, "Who can we get to do this work?" The list was generated because of
1. These were the consultants that normally preformed the work
2. These consultants had passed some type of test/qualification required to perform the work.

Most likely, anybody can submit to get on the list (or will get on it automatically if Item 2 applies). Additionally, I would not be surprised if the list had disclaimers about the quality of the work by anyone on the list or that others not on the list may be acceptable (Unless Item 2 was a requirement for submittal).

For example, in Indiana, our environmental management agency (IDEM) has the following Environmental Consultants List for Stack Testing: https://www.in.gov/idem/airquality/files/complianc...

As you can see, we start with a disclaimer about how anyone can get on the list and that IDEM does not solicit companies to be on the list, nor do we endorse anyone on the list.

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

I am currently doing work on a county project in CA. They have a list of "preferred" consultants. We were originally brought in by their insurance carrier. We weren't on the preferred consultants list before but we are now. It required submitting proof of insurance, business license, sample projects and company profile.

The list only means that you have been vetted to legally work in the state and licensed to do the work you are being hired for, at least for this county. The approval process may be a bit more political in other counties, like Los Angeles and state agencies like OSHPD here in CA.

You can target any agency you want to work for and request information for getting onto a preferred list even before a project pops up.

If you are offended by the things I say, imagine the stuff I hold back.

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

When talking to a customer out of power after a wind storm with a freezer full of food starting to thaw, I hated having to tell customers that I can't give any hints at how to find an contractor that can fix their electrical panel.

As long as there is a fair and transparent way for firms to get on a "register" list, it saves the customer time without causing ethical woes.

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

One doesn't understand how your question can be addressed without seeing the actual wording of the list. Do you expect people to speculate on what is stated on the list?

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

NY State has a process where municipalities can select a consultant from a list of prequalified firms for federal-aid transportation projects. The firms have to respond to an RFQ by the New York State County Highway Superintendents Association. A panel of reviewers in each region rate the qualifications of the firms that submit, and those that pass get on the list. A municipality can select firms from that list without having to issue an RFP for each project.

We were directed not to use the list by our county legislature. We issue RFPs for each project, and review and rate up to a dozen proposals for each one. It was before I started working here, but I suspect that a firm that wasn't prequalified donated to a legislator's re-election fund.

My glass has a v/c ratio of 0.5

Maybe the tyranny of Murphy is the penalty for hubris. - http://xkcd.com/319/

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

We were on the other side of a situation like this. A certain government inspector whom I did not get along with, was verbally recommending certain firms (competitors) to provide the same service that we offer. It appears that some years ago when the government did some "downsizing", a few of his co-workers started private firms, and guess who the inspector was recommending to use. He would never put it in writing, to avoid being pinned down, but I know complaints were made, and I know we were hired more than once because we were NOT one of the firms that the inspector was recommending. That inspector has since disappeared from sight - I believe he was relocated by his management to somewhere else in the province where he couldn't do too much damage, and has probably since retired. We're still around, and I've been too busy to care what happened to the companies that he was recommending.

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

Quote:

Does anyone have any thoughts on how it might be illegal for the agency to provide the list?

Many municipalities have policies forbidding these recommendations to avoid the appearance of nepotism. Violation of such a policy is usually treated as some form of corruption.

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

I went back and fourth for a year with a Federal regulator over a report not being in a very specific format. My submittal met all the requirements as stated by the very vague law but it was something my company had never had to submit before. Failed review after failed review the regulator said we should get a consultant who "knew what he was doing like everyone else does" to do the report but he refused to provide a list of acceptable consultants. The report never got approved and I had to completely circumvent the review process by way of amicable site inspector. By not being able to recommend consultants, regulators can hold up projects indefinitely with mystery requirements.

I used to count sand. Now I don't count at all.

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

Seems to me that the regulator was simply trying to not approve the report; if they wanted to approve it, they could simply have said, "we need 1" borders, with 12-pt Times Roman," "You need to show equations here, and here," etc. The runaround is a stalling tactic.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Regulatory agency recommending private consulting firm

So why not give the matter due diligence and find a consultant who has done similar reports to hire as suggested? Everything the govt does is searchable public record and I'm sure a few cold calls to consultants would pretty quickly yield someone competent. Someone experienced in the matter could probably teach you how to do write future reports correctly. Governments are notoriously picky about formatting and other seemingly insignificant documentation details simply because they get sued a lot and standardizing process and formats like this prevents costly mistakes. To be fair, private industry is much the same way. Documentation is usually preferred in whomever is paying for the work's format, and in the application engineering world many companies will similarly refuse to make supplier recommendations for liability's sake.

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