The Fund for Investigative Journalism

Supporting investigative reporting projects around the world

  • Next Deadline: Sept. 23, 2019

  • Grant recipient investigates government contract “piggybacking”

    Over five months, PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, investigated the use of “piggybacking” contracts used by city and county governments in the region. The practice allows some government officials to circumvent contract vetting processes by “piggybacking” on contract requests already approved by other agencies. Doing so can save governments time and money by avoiding negotiation and approval steps. But critics say the practice has led to higher costs for taxpayers and leaves government agencies vulnerable to fraud.

    According to data compiled by PublicSource from Pittsburgh’s contract repository, only 10 percent of 1,135 contracts that were active as of December 1, 2018, were actually negotiated by the city.

    City Controller Michael Lamb told PublicSource, “When you just automatically jump to these cooperative contracts rather than doing a local competitive process, I think you’re cheating taxpayers.”

    View of the City-County Building in Pittsburgh. Photo by Kat Procyk

    [FIJ thanks the Park Foundation and the Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation for providing the funding for this project.]