Audit: ODOT should track abnormal individual line-items in bids to
better scrutinize construction costs
SALEM, OR — An audit released today by Secretary of State Dennis
Richardson, finds that ODOT could potentially realize significant savings by
tracking unbalanced bid items. When contractors submit abnormally high or low
prices for individual line-items in construction contracts, it is called an
unbalanced bid. These bids can lead to cost increases if construction projects
are later changed.
construction costs in check is critically important to efficiently manage
taxpayer dollars,” said Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. “By not tracking
unbalanced bids, ODOT is gambling with millions of taxpayer dollars. ODOT needs
to evaluate how much these bids are actually costing the state and what steps
the agency may need to take to manage them.”
data for all 413 ODOT-run construction projects completed from 2011 to 2015 and
found that over 90% of these projects had at least one unbalanced bid item.
Sixty-one percent (61%) had one or more unbalanced bids that were double or
more than their estimated cost. ODOT considers any bid item that is at least 20% and $25,000
above or below the estimated cost to be mathematically unbalanced. The total cost for all 413 of the projects reviewed was $1.8 billion,
slightly below the total estimated cost of $1.9 billion.
The audit team’s analysis of the 413 ODOT construction projects
found that sixty-nine percent (69%) exceeded their bid amounts. Specifically,
the total cost for the 283 projects that exceeded their bid amount was $1.563
billion and the total cost over the bid amounts was $134 million. Since ODOT currently does not track its
unbalanced bid items, it is unknown what portion of the overage amount was
related to unbalanced bidding.
From detailed reviews of 11 construction projects,
auditors found that documentation for project changes did contain the required
approvals, had adequate supporting documentation, and included reasonable
explanations for why the changes were needed. The agency should improve guidance to its Project Managers
on how to manage project changes related to unbalanced bids.
“Unbalanced bids allow some contractors to game the
system, and ODOT is not providing proper accountability,” added Secretary
State and federal laws requiring ODOT to award contracts to
the lowest bidder may encourage contractors to use unbalanced bidding. It is critical that ODOT better manage this common practice.
Read the complete Secretary of State audit,
including recommendations to ODOT, here: http://sos.oregon.gov/audits/Documents/2017-02.pdf