The legality of Go Rio Cruises’ Small Business Enterprise (SBE) certification, which gave the partnership crucial bidding points in its successful effort to win the City’s 10-year, $100 million river barge contract, was reaffirmed Wednesday by the South Central Texas Regional Certification Agency (SCTRCA). The decision came in response to a challenge brought by competing bidder Mery & Associates.
The bidders for the river barge contract were evaluated through a scoring matrix created by City staff. Go Rio beat out Mery & Associates, also known as Buena Vista Barges, by 5.92 points and edged competitor San Antonio River Cruises by a mere 1.02 points.
While the SCTRCA confirmation further solidifies Go Rio’s victory based on the scoring matrix, there is still potential for further legal action to challenge the city’s contract decision. Mitsuko Ramos, the lobbyist working with Mery & Associates who filled the challenge, has requested an appeal, which could bring deeper review of Go Rio’s organizational structure and SBE certification.
SBE certification can generate extra points on the scoring matrix for bidders that are considered to be disadvantaged, small, and minority- and woman-owned businesses. The certification is offered by the SCTRCA, an agency existing under the authority of the Small Business Administration.
Mery & Associates’ challenge centered on Go Rio’s SBE certification, which it received after its first round of bidding. Go Rio restructured its organization and governance in a way that fit the company into the criteria established for SBE certification. Ramos argued in her appeal that the SCTRCA never conducted an evaluation of the change in business structure made by Go Rio between the first and second rounds of bidding.
A letter distributed by SCTRCA said it had upheld Go Rio’s SBE status.