Dave Solomon's Gettin' Down to Business: No-bid contracts are under scrutiny by Executive Council
That's why sole-source or no-bid agreements get so much attention from the Executive Council, whose advice and consent is needed on most state contracts.
Republican Councilor Chris Sununu has at times voted against contracts for no reason other than the lack of a bidding process, as has Democratic Councilor Debora Pignatelli.
Capital projects like roads, buildings, new computer systems and the like generally go out to bid, and although the losing bidders might not like the outcome, at least they had an opportunity to make their case.
Health and Human Services Commissioner Nick Toumpas uses a lot of consultants in his department. Consultants are hired to develop and install computer systems that manage benefit programs like Medicaid, and then other consultants are hired to road-test or "authenticate" the work of the first group of consultants.
"Why not bid?" Sununu asked.
"Of the 14 HHS contracts before us, eight are sole-source," Sununu said, although many of the contracts in question were not new, but were extensions of existing contracts that were put out to bid at one time.
When the Division of Travel and Tourism decided to develop a version of the state's tourism website for mobile devices, why did it add more than $300,000 to its existing contract with the SilverTech agency instead of putting the job out to bid?
The Executive Council, a uniquely New Hampshire institution, has to disrupt the comfortable relationship senior state employees develop with the consultants or service providers whose work meets their high standards. It's often easier to keep doing business with the same folks than to go through a complicated, contentious and potentially litigious "request for proposals" and bidding process.
"We had a robust discussion at the breakfast about ways to streamline and improve the council process," said Democratic Councilor Colin Van Ostern of Newfields after Wednesday's session. "There is always a balance to be struck between public scrutiny on the one hand, and how much that might slow things down on the other."
"The governor believes strongly in the importance of pursuing contracts through the competitive bidding process outlined in state law in order to protect taxpayer dollars," said her spokesman Marc Goldberg.
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