With help from the Harvard Government Performance Lab, the city created a data collection tool which inspectors could use in the field to track performance on key indicators (including grass height, prevalence of weeds and property damage). They then conducted a competitive procurement where, for the first time, the City considered factors such as past performance and ability to report on key metrics as part of the vendor selection. The Purchasing Department also divided large land areas into smaller parcels, and reached out to vendors that had not previously bid on the City’s contracts. The new contracts replaced punitive damages for under-performance with a 5 percent performance bonus to incentivize strong performance. Vendors submitted invoices with pictures of the completed work. This eliminated the need for City staff to perform on-site inspections.
With this approach, the city boosted overall competition (the number of vendors submitting responses rose by 38 percent) without raising the costs. What is more important, complaints to the City Manager about grounds maintenance fell substantially.