Skip to main content

Irvine, California

Keywords: Food Service, Competitive Bidding, Failed Contract

Seniors Care Management

The City of Irvine operates two seniors centers that provide a wide variety of services to the local elderly population. Among their many programs, the centers offer care management services for individuals in need of assistance with health care, transportation, housing, and other social services. At any given time there are about 100 active cases in the system.

The lead staff person for this service was charged with administering a community-based care management program. In addition to direct service, this person also coordinated a variety of volunteer programs and maintained linkages with local, state, and federal agencies. Unfortunately, many of the technical aspects of managing a geriatric social work program had been overlooked by the city when it first budgeted for the position several years earlier. As a result, the city often had problems retaining the lead staff person for this service. In evaluating its options for stabilizing the program, rather than upgrade the lead staff position, the city chose to privatize the entire program in 1994.

The Request for Proposals attracted few qualified bidders. In spite of a competitive bidding process, the city felt that only one contractor had the qualifications necessary to run the complex program. After reviewing the technical responsibilities contained in the service contract, however, the lone qualified bidder chose to withdraw from the competition. The perception was that many of the contract services were hard to measure, difficult to administer, and that performance would be based largely on community perceptions rather than tangible results. This created a sense that the cost to administer the program would grow far beyond the ability of the vendor to manage the program within the available budget.

Unable to attract qualified contractors, in 1995 city administrators went back to City Council and asked that the lead staff position for the program be upgraded. This time they were successful in their request, and the program has remained in public hands ever since.

Case based on interviews with George Searcy, Superintendent of Senior Services, City of Irvine, California, June 24, 1999 and August 3, 1999.