National Mall Contract Has Tour Company Seeing Red

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The National Park Service knew it was breaking the law when it awarded a bus-tour contract to a foreign-owned company, a local competitor claims, telling a federal judge to pull a U-turn on the deal.
     Seeking “interpretative transportation services at the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, D.C.,” the Park Service opened the $8.1 million contract up for bidding in late 2014, according to the federal complaint filed Friday.
     City Sightseeing Washington, D.C., dba Big Bus Tours was already providing the services at issue, making 19 stops around the National Mall, “pursuant to a short-term temporary contract,” the complaint states.
     Though the Park Service announced last month that it had selected Big Bus Tours for the long-term contract, competing bidder National Mall Tours of Washington says London-based Exponent Private Equity bought Big Bus on Feb. 24.
     “This pre-award change in the intended awardee’s ownership and controlling interest invalidated the critical certifications which the intended awardee had been required to submit to NPS pursuant to the prospectus,” the complaint states.
     A subsidiary of the company that also owns the contractor responsible for official tours of Arlington National Cemetery, National Mall Tours of Washington Inc. says it was a shoe-in for the job.
     Both tour companies and their owner, Old Town Trolley Tours of Washington, are local, but the latter company is controlled by Key West, Fla.-based Historic Tours of America, according to the complaint.
     Exponent’s acquisition of Big Bus is “directly relevant” to the main factors that federal agencies use to evaluate bids, National Mall Tours says.
     With bidders required to name any entities that own controlling interest in its company, the Park Service should have reviewed Big Bus’ change in ownership, National Mall Tours adds.
     “Had this important change in the intended awardee’s ownership been taken into account by NPS, it would have had a substantial detrimental impact on the evaluation of the intended awardee qualifications, resulting in NPS selecting National Mall Tours,” the complaint states, abbreviating National Park Service.
     Federal law furthermore required the agency to submit the proposed contract to committees in both houses of Congress for review, according to the complaint.
     This claim rests on regulations in the National Park Service Concessions Management Improvement Act of 1998 for any contract projected to eclipse $5 million in revenue or 10 years in length, National Mall Tours says.
     The company claims that its various requests for meetings with and explanations from the Park Service have failed to gain traction.
     In filing the complaint, National Mall Tours says it “has no other administrative procedure available to it to pursue, and has fully exhausted all possible remedies, both formal and informal.”
     In addition to the Park Service and its oversight agency, the Department of the Interior, the complaint names Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis as defendants.

%d bloggers like this: