The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

State News

June 1, 2013

W.Va. changes bid practice following legislative criticism

CHARLESTON — West Virginia will stop allowing only winners of existing government contracts to bid for follow-up requests for goods and services, canceling eight contracts in the process, state officials said Friday.

The Division of Purchasing had notified the officials who oversee this area for individual state agencies of the move last week.

First reported by The Charleston Gazette, the decision to end what’s known as the secondary bid process follows a legislative audit that criticized the practice.

That report, presented to lawmakers in February, questioned whether state law even allowed such a process.

The cancelled contracts involved dozens of vendors as well as a wide array of goods and services, from computer equipment and furniture to tree removal, electronic equipment recycling and office moving services.

The one of the largest number of vendors covered temporary information technology staffing.

Spokeswoman Diane Holley-Brown said the division has not yet fielded reactions from vendors, but she noted that word of the change was just getting out.

“The people in the purchasing arena, they’re used to this process and we’ve used it for the last few years,” Holley-Brown said Friday. “By cancelling the secondary bid contracts, we’re just going to be competitively bidding those out...There’s going to be more competition, and we’re hoping that it will bring lower prices for the state.”

The legislative audit that targeted the practice focused largely on West Virginia’s purchase of more than 1,000 high-end Internet routers as part of a $24 million deal meant to boost broadband access statewide.

The purchases, using the secondary bid process, have prompted a congressional inquiry along with hefty criticism of the state officials involved.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin proposed curbs and rules for the practice in legislation during this year’s session meant to reform state purchasing laws.

The Senate Government Organization Committee amended that measure to bar the secondary bid process.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously, but then idled in the House Finance Committee until the session ended in April.

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