Last year, The Nerve began an at-times contentious conversation with the South Carolina Department of Transportation about the release of the internal scoring documents the agency produces in which it grades prime contractors on such issues as safety, adherence to budgets, timeliness of project completion and more.
Launched in 2005, the Contractor Performance Evaluation Scores (CPES) have not been released by DOT in the decade since. When sought through previous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, DOT argued that doing so could jeopardize competitive bidding. The Nerve continued the challenge, assembling arguments, expert opinions and finding legal precedent establishing, in our view, that the documents were public records.
On Thursday, March 2, DOT Secretary Christy Hall made a bold choice in favor of transparency and released the information to The Nerve. In the spirit of public service journalism, we are sharing that information with the general public rather than forcing private citizens, business interests and journalists to submit FOIA requests on their own for the information. We are not hoarders.
Below is the entire list, with the scores. It is our hope the information:
- incentivizes the improvement of firms with low scores in areas of safety and financial responsibility;
- holds contractors doing business with the DOT on public safety projects accountable for their practices and results;
- provides opportunities for important journalism both regionally and statewide; and
- holds not only DOT but every county and municipality in South Carolina using public funds accountable for their choice of contractors given that prior knowledge of a contractor’s performance history is now publicly available.
UNDERSTANDING THE SCORES
You can view the DOT’s entire Contract Performance Evaluation Manual here, but following are the six performance categories DOT uses made simple. (Note: the higher the score in any category, the better.)
Safety: An objective measure of the contractor’s current Experience Modification Ratio (EMR), which is based on Workers Compensation claims filed.
On Budget: An objective measure of a contractor’s paid amount (which factors in costs for late days, change orders and extensions) versus its original bid amount.
On Time: An objective measure of how well the contractor met the scheduled Substantial Work Completion (SWKC) date.
Quality Management Team (QMT): This category is an objective measure of the adherence to proper procedures in the field.
Claims Denied: This score reflects data on how many claims or percentage of claims the contractor filed that were denied by the Dispute Review Board.
RCE Survey: The result of an 18-question survey assessing the contractor’s performance and use of resources on a project by a Resident Construction Engineer (RCE).
What constitutes a substandard score? The Department of Transportation calculates a score under which a contractor is considered to be substandard based off the mean data from the previous year and reflects the low second standard deviation of the data distribution. The number, called a Contractor Performance Threshold, remains in effect for the entire calendar year. Contractors whose scores fall below the substandard threshold are prohibited from bidding on projects with a minimum CPS score and must participate in a CPT review meeting with the Director of Construction to determine ways to improve scores on active projects.
For 2013, the most recent year made available, the CPT was 68.6.