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By Brian Hews
Allegations of corruption and bribery are surrounding the California Department of Public Health/Office of AIDS (CDPH/OA) bidding process of the states’ massive AIDS Drug Assistance Program contract, with the award going to an out-of-state company that will charge $9 million more over the term of the agreement.
ADAP assists over 30,000 Californians living with HIV who completely rely on the program for access to health insurance and lifesaving medications.
Hews Media Group-Community News has obtained documents that show the CDPH/AO blatantly and purposely violated several sections of the state’s Public Contract Code, the State Contract Manual, the Request for Proposal Process (RFP), and violated the Freedom of Information Act governing public records requests in awarding a no-bid contract to A.J. Boggs, a Michigan based company, over Oakland based and minority owned Ramsell, who has administered the ADAP program for over 19 years.
Shockingly, the documents show that Boggs’ bid for the entire contract was over $9 million more than Ramsell’s.
In addition, many AIDS organizations and doctors across the state are extremely concerned about the transition to Boggs. According to the documents, this is the first time Boggs will implement a system to administer ADAP.
The organizations include Access Support Network of San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties, San Ysidro Health Center, AIDS Project Los Angeles, Los Angeles LGBT Center, Project Inform San Francisco, AIDS Foundation, and the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
The original ADAP RFP was sent out on October 20, 2015 and followed state guidelines using a 1,000-point allocation system to award the bid.
Consistent with government regulations, the actual monetary bid for the contract, the “Cost Calculation,” was weighted at 75% (750 points) and “Technical Calculation” requirements were weighted at 25% (250 points).
The term of the ADAP RFP was three years with two one-year extensions.
Ramsell’s bid was $900,000 per year, with no increase over the five-year term.
A.J. Boggs’ bid was $4,699,585, almost $3.8 million more than Ramsell’s in year one.
For reasons unknown, the amount dropped to $2,212,563 in year 2; $2,208,767 in year 3; $2,211,532 in year 4; and $2,235,012 in year 5.
All tolled for the three years, Ramsell’s bid was $2.7 million and Boggs was $9,120,159.
For the five-year term, Ramsell’s bid was $4.5 million and Boggs was $13,567,459, a staggering difference of $9.067 million.
Under the RFP guidelines, point allocation to Ramsell, the lowest bidder, would have been 750 points, while Boggs would have received 296 points using a state mandated formula.
This initial Cost Calculation would have effectively ended the bid process in favor of Ramsell.
That is until the Procurement Officer for the CDPH/OA, Jeffrey Mapes, inexplicably and illegally changed the terms of the RFP, setting into motion the eventual no bid award to Boggs.
On Dec. 3, 2015, two months after the ADAP RFP was issued, Mapes suddenly reversed the RFP’s priorities and allocated the Technical Calculation at 75% and the Cost Calculation at 25%.
No reason was given for the changes.
In doing so, Mapes and the CDPH/AO knowingly violated sections of the Public Contract Code and Sate Contract Manual to favor Boggs’ bid.
With the new format, Ramsell, the lowest bidder, received the maximum 250 points and Boggs received 120 points.
But even the 120 points given to Boggs was in error, staff at the CDPH/AO seemingly could not perform a simple math calculation nor correct an error.
Under the formula, the total points given to Boggs should have been 72.5 not 120, and that error was one of the reasons Boggs’ won the contract.
But there was more.
The Technical Calculation allocation raised even more serious questions about the legitimacy and legality of the award process.
Boggs, who has not implemented a system as required by ADAP, received 730 points.
Ramsell, who has maintained a fully functioning system for ADAP for over 19 years, inexplicably received only 534 points.
Similar to the Cost Calculation, included in the Technical Calculation totals was another very questionable allocation.
There were three levels within the Technical Calculation that, if attained, would garner 150 total additional points.
Despite identical features between the two companies, the CDPH/OA gave Boggs 150 points and shockingly gave only 25 points to Ramsell.
Even after all the calculations, illegal changes, and simple math calculation errors, the CDPH/OA awarded the contract to Boggs on Mar. 4, 2016 and sent an email to Ramsell officials informing them of the Boggs award.
Not yet knowing about the contract fiasco, Ramsell immediately submitted a public records request for all documents related to the Boggs bid.
Mapes and the CDPH/OA stalled the production of the documents, and in doing so violated the Freedom of Information Act.
The FOI Act dictates that a public records request must be answered within ten calendar days. If the agency cannot gather the required documents within 10 days, they must send a letter by the 10th day asking for an additional 14 calendar days, for a total of 24 days.
Ramsell made its request Mar. 7, 2016, Mapes and the CDPH/OA did not issue a 10- day letter and waited 17 days to answer.
On March 24, Ramsell was given a DVD, but it was blank.
Informed the DVD was blank, Mapes sent another DVD Mar. 28, but the DVD contained only summary sheets.
Conveniently missing was the actual evaluation and forms used to allocate points, another violation of the FOI Act.
When Ramsell officials read the DVD, they found out why those documents were missing.
Ramsell Was the Winning Bidder
The summary documents showed that Boggs point total was 880, while Ramsell’s point total was 834.
But the Boggs total included the simple math error from the Cost Calculation. The 120 points awarded should have been only 72.5, a difference of 47.5 points.
That difference would have lowered Boggs total to 832.5 (880-47.5) giving the contract to Ramsell who came in at 834 points.
But that did not matter to the CDPH/AO or Mapes.
In addition, Ramsell was certainly entitled to receive the same amount of points, 150, for attaining the three levels within the Technical Calculation as Boggs received.
Instead, Ramsell was awarded 25 points.
Giving Ramsell its rightful total of 150 points, the company would now have a total of 959, eclipsing Boggs total.
Seeing the inequity, Ramsell immediately filed a protest on April 6, 2016 using the Sacramento based law firm of Churchwell/White.
A partial excerpt from the protest letter stated, “the procurement process was fatally flawed for five reasons: (1) CDPH/OA failed to ensure that substantial weight in relationship to all other criteria utilized was given to contract price as mandated by statute; (2) CDPH/OA failed to follow scoring evaluation procedures outlined in their own RFP; (3) CDPH/OA failed to provide clarity to questions, and provide a clear, precise description of the RFP terms; (4) CDPH/OA failed to provide evaluation forms and score sheets at the conclusion of the committee scoring process, as mandated by statute; and (5) CDPH/OA failed to reject the unresponsive bid which they selected for the contract. CDPH/OA’s actions resulted in Ramsell unfairly losing the award. Taken together, once these deficiencies are corrected, Ramsell will be the clear winner of the award.”
Apparently the letter sent shock waves through the CDPH.
Six days later on April 12, Timothy Bow from the CDPH/AO sent a letter announcing, “the (ADAP) RFP had been cancelled and all bids are hereby rejected.”
One day later, Bow sent a letter to Ramsell saying, “Since this RFP has been cancelled, your (Ramsell’s) protest is rejected.”
Days later the CDPH/AO awarded the no-bid contract to Boggs using some very tortured logic.
The CDPH/AO cited an “emergency situation” and that we “do not want to interrupt service” so, given that situation, “it allows us to award a no-bid contract, and we chose Boggs.”
In essence, the CDPH/AO chose the less experienced, more expensive company that in all likelihood will not be ready for the initial roll out tomorrow July 1.
The choice will cost California taxpayer an additional $9 million and will likely throw the ADAP program into chaos.
Kevin Mattson, CEO of the San Ysidro Health Center said in a letter to Karen Mark MD, Chief of the Office of AIDS, “I expect that the upcoming changes to the ADAP program will cause significant disruption to our clinic, anxiety for our patients, and may present a direct risk to patients through gaps and medication access. I strongly urge you to maintain the current system, or at least delay until healthcare providers and patients can have time to prepare for the change and ensure the safety of our patients.”
Many other organizations across the state are expressing similar concerns.
Emails into Jeffrey Mapes went unanswered.
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