CLAYTON, Mo. (KMOV.com) - Some members of the St. Louis County Council are questioning a $2 million contract awarded to a consulting company that is being paid to eliminate waste and inefficiency.
Questions about the contract with the Boston Consulting Group are coming from councilmembers of both parties. According to a report, St. Louis County was seeking "an outside perspective" to deploy best practices to identify eliminating unnecessary duplication, and eliminating inefficiencies in government, among other goals.
Councilmember Tim Fitch said he believes the expense is a waste.
"Most consultants gather information you already had, they get it from you to begin with. They spit it back at you and then you get a bill," Fitch said.
According to the services agreement with Boston Consulting, "it's a necessary expenditure incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19."
The expense is paid for with money from the CARES Act. The County Council did not authorize the expense because they weren't asked. St. Louis County Executive Sam Page has oversight on how the money is allocated.
"This is a nearly $2 million agreement, and right now, he is begging the federal government for more money for these businesses he has shut down, when this $2 million could have easily gone to these businesses that are suffering because of the orders he is issuing," Fitch says.
"We have lots of people in St. Louis County and in St. Louis County government that could probably do this. $2 million could go a long way in my community helping with food insecurity, housing insecurity, those kind of things. My community was devastated by the virus," said Councilmember Rita Days.
However, not every councilmember feels the same way. Councilmember Ernie Trakas says the contract could produce a long term benefit.
"I think its important the county avail itself to an objective independent third party expert to review its operation with respect to inefficiency," Trakas said.
Trakas added that he will consider the $2 million expense worth it if Boston Consulting Group can identify up to $80 million a year in savings, or about 10 percent of the county budget. He says it will be a worthy exercise if county government acts on it.
For those opposed to the contract, it also shines a light on another issue. Page is allowed to make unilateral decisions with the CARES Act money.
"Initially we voted to give complete control of the $173 million to the County Executive, that's how this happened. That was a request from the County Executive and it was along party lines. I joined the majority in that and I've said several times since that I regret that vote," said Days.
Boston Consulting Group is required to submit invoices to St. Louis County. News 4 has requested them. Fitch said he believes it is something that needs to be scrutinized by a professional auditor.
Although Trakas said he believes expenses should be scrutinized, he worries what will happen if inefficiencies and waste aren't rooted out now, especially as less revenue is expected due to COVID-19.
"I guarantee what's coming down the road is someone is going to put forth the idea to raise taxes because of lost revenue, and I've said and I will continue to say the only time I will consider raising taxes is when the county no longer has duplication of efforts, no longer has inefficiencies and programs and services it does not need. If we have to have a deficit, that's a different conversation, that's why this report is so important," Trakas said.
Nobody from Page's office was available to speak on camera but the consultants could be releasing their findings as soon as this week.
As of this week, there were five bids for this consulting work. News 4 has asked for those bids but have yet to receive them.