Last week the Kansas City Star reported that the Kansas City MO Water Department awarded a two year, $12 million dollar no-bid contract to West Monroe Partners. Yes, you read that right. $12 million dollars–which breaks down to $500,000 per month — being paid to this Chicago company.
For this exhorbitant fee, West Monroe Partners will address problems with the department’s phone system, information technology, call center training (they have a call center? The water department doesn’t even have a published direct customer service phone number!) and billing issues. Where does the KCMO water department get $12 million dollars to throw at a consulting firm?
The horrible customer service and billing problems at this utility are well known. What has current management been doing to fix the problems? Why does an outside company, at very hefty fees, have to be hired? Shouldn’t these issues be addressed by current management? Isn’t that what they are paid to do? What is the job description of the head of the department? And since we’ve had these same problems for years, wouldn’t a better solution be to hire management who knows how to run a water department efficiently and effectively? Why not fire those that can’t get the job done? Where is the accountability???
Just last year, KCTV reported that the water department hired a consultant, who was being paid $250 per hour, to deal with water service bills and poor customer service. What happened to that consultant’s recommendations? How much did that cost us? Did management implement any of the suggested changes?
And why was this a no-bid contract? There is a foul smell to this entire story. Why did the City Council approve this contract?
We’ve had huge increases in our water bills to pay for the federally mandated upgrade of our sewer system. These increases will continue for the next several years. Apparently the water department has included a fat budget line item for consulting firms with the higher rates so they can outsource the job they are supposed to be doing…while current KCMO water personnel collect generous salaries and pension benefits for not doing the jobs they were hired to do.