Legislators Introduce Bills to Reform State Contracts

Member Group : Freindly Fire

Harrisburg – In a September memo to the members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, four state legislators outlined their respective bills aimed at reforming how state contracts are awarded.

State Reps. Mike Turzai, R-28th, Allegheny; Doug Reichley, R-134th, Lehigh; Robert Godshall, R-53rd, Montgomery; and Glen Grell, R-87th Cumberland, stated their reasons for introducing the package of bills.

In the memo, they wrote, "For more than one year now, press reports have divulged procurement practices of the Rendell Administration which have avoided using the required procedures of the Procurement Code. The code’s purpose is to award state government contracts through a public bidding process to the ‘lowest responsible bidder.’ However, a January 2007 Special Audit released by the Auditor General revealed the prevalence of this administration to use ‘settlement agreements’ to pay venders without contracts. The audit also found a lack of monitoring invoices before approving payment."

They added that, "These practices spawned ‘the perception of circumventing the competitive bidding process.’"

The memo went on to detail what the legislators claimed were "questionable processes," and wrote that, "…we are introducing a package of procurement reform bills which will clean up any ethical entanglements the administration has created, save taxpayer dollars, and make the operations of the Executive Branch more transparent to the General Assembly, and more importantly, to the general public."

Following is a brief synopsis of each house bill (HB):

HB 2805 (Turzai) – Would remove legal "services" from the definition of those contracts which can be awarded under the emergency provisions of the Procurement Code.

HB 2804 (Grell) – Would require any contract to be awarded as an extension of a currently existing contract to be posted on the DGS website for ten business days before the contract is submitted to the Attorney General for review of form and content.

HB 2397 (Godshall) – Would ban any contract from being awarded to any person, partnership or corporation which donated to the campaign of a candidate for local or state office within one year of the date a contract is posted for public bidding.

HB 2803 (Reichley) – Would require that any contract to be let by the executive, legislative, or judicial branch, or any legislative caucus, with an initial value over $100,000 be subject to the requirements of the procurement code.

The Representatives said that changes in the Procurement Code are needed "to help restore the integrity of state government against contract abuses."

Chris Freind can be reached at [email protected]