Chicago Broadcasts Contracting Process on YouTube

Chicago procurement

What do you get when you cross a mayor that’s craving transparency, a giant procurement scandal and social media? The answer: your very own procurement-centric YouTube channel.

The City of Chicago will now be broadcasting its bid openings processes on a YouTube channel, increasing overall transparency for how it awards contracts. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Department of Procurement Services (DPS) announced the news earlier this month.

The channel may come as a PR surprise to some. But in reality, it appears to be more of a way of responding to — or deflecting negative press — given how the mayor’s office is involved in a contract scandal regarding a sole-sourced contract within Chicago Public Schools.

Former chief of CPS Barbara Byrd-Bennett recently pleaded guilty to wire fraud for awarding a no-bid contract to a company that promised her $2.3 million in kickbacks. The Chicago Tribune reported the mayor’s office is refusing to release emails that could provide deeper transparency into the sketchy CPS contract deal. Emanuel has maintained that he and his administration did not have a role in the contract process.  

The new YouTube Channel, however, will provide a livestream into all of the city’s bid openings, to create an “open and fair government” and “level the playing field” in the city’s contracting process, Emanuel said in a press release.

But video alone may not be enough to get the message across, according to Jason Busch, cofounder of Public Spend Forum and founder and head of strategy at Spend Matters.

“The channel is an important first step to transparency. Yet video is not the primary means to communicate and publish opportunities in public and social sector procurement today, nor to communicate to the supply community generally. A mix of various social approaches, portal and related approaches will be important, as well supplier development initiatives and events. Otherwise this will just amount to little more than clever PR.”

Education Tools

The channel also offers free procurement workshops and educational videos so companies can learn more about how to do business with the city. It features videos on certification of minority- and women-owned businesses as well.

Despite the contracting scandal the mayor’s office is in at the moment, these educational tools on the new YouTube channel do seem useful for procurement professionals and even for residents wanting to learn how their city procures goods and services.

For instance, want to learn how to use the CPO’s website, find awarded contracts or certification documents? A nearly hour-long video on the channel called “How to Navigate the DPS Website Workshop” takes viewers through a detailed step-by-step process of using the site. Another video that could be useful for companies hoping to win contracts with the city is Doing Business with the City of Chicago.

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