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As part of his push to rewrite public contracting policies in New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has vowed to improve City Hall’s long-standing and oft-criticized effort to give a portion of public work to businesses — usually those owned by minority or female entrepreneurs — that still struggle because of historic discrimination.

The city’s inspector general believes the task may be more complicated than Landrieu anticipated, thanks to a tangle of judicial and legislative directives dating back more than 20 years.

In a six-page letter to Landrieu this week, Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux chronicles the history that he says has resulted in an opaque process that leaves decisions about who can compete for contract set-asides to a group of appointees who lack consistent criteria for making judgments.

“Overall, the process lacked clear and objective standards needed to assure that decisions were uniform and fair,” the inspector general writes. “The panel’s accountability was also undermined by the lack of open meetings, records of discussions, or a meaningful appeal process.”

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