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It’s commendable that DC elected officials are concerned about the survival of local small businesses in DC’s post-pandemic reality. It’s also admirable that they want to ensure equity in the system.

However, the fact that they have decided to conduct a “disparity study” is problematic. First there is the issue of the title of the survey; it suggests a biased approach and a forgone conclusion of discrimination. Then, there is the reality that conducting such an assessment ignores the indisputable fact that the District’s contracting and procurement system is severely dysfunctional — without regard to race or gender.

Each year the city spends billions of dollars on contracted goods and services. That process often is marked by incompetence and willful violation of local laws, rules and regulations. Taxpayers are left footing the bill when lawsuits are filed or when additional procurement is required to rectify mistakes or mismanagement.

The disparity study itself serves as evidence of this. The one announced by Bowser, slated to be implemented by a joint venture comprised of BBC Research and Consulting, Pantera Management Group and Tiber Hudson, will be the second in the past two years.

The first was conducted by CRP Inc., a local firm headed by Carolyn Rudd. According to budget documents, the council approved $200,000 for the CRP report.

On Jan. 13, 2020, then-interim Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio sent an “oops” letter to McDuffie, chair of the Committee on Business and Economic Development. “The contractor helped the District determine that we do not currently have the data to complete a disparity study,” wrote Falcicchio, adding that CRP had helped identify “what would be needed to complete this important undertaking.”

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