‘A substantial disparity’ exists in awarding of Virginia Beach contracts, researchers find

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — After a year of research, City of Virginia Beach leaders were told a substantial disparity does exist when it comes to who public contracts are awarded to.

Researchers with BBC Research and Consulting presented findings of a nearly $500,000 disparity study to Virginia Beach City Council members on Tuesday.  

The study looked at contracts awarded between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2017. Researchers focused on project management, community engagement, legal analysis and framework, contracting review, and utilization and availability. 

In that 5-year period $1.2 billion in contracts were awarded, the study found. Out of that amount, 18.9 percent went to a business owned by either a minority or a woman.

“When you look at all minority and women owned businesses considered together for all city contracts, There is a substantial disparity,” said Dr. Sameer Bawa, with BBC Research and Consulting. 

Bawa suggests the percentage of the money being paid to minority and woman owned businesses should be closer to 25 percent based on their existence in the marketplace. 

While the full report has yet to be released, Bawa said to look at improving the numbers the city must ask, “What barriers do these businesses face out in the marketplace?” 

The push to conduct the study was put into the limelight when businessman and NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Smith claimed his development proposals were being excluded on the basis of race.

Following Tuesday’s presentation, Smith said he was satisfied with the findings.

“We realized that there was a problem, the people spoke out,” Smith said. “Now the real work begins. A conscious effort to improve women and minorities and small businesses in the contracting process.”

Bawa laid out four ideas for the city to consider when soliciting bids for contracts in the future:

  • Unbundle large contracts 
  • Notify minority and female-owned businesses when new bids are released
  • Create contracts specifically for small businesses  
  • Establish race-/gender-conscious goals

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NOTE: An earlier version of this story stated the study looked at contracts awarded between July 1, 2013, rather than 2012. WAVY.com regrets the error. 

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