Democrats Call For Look At Kansas No-Bid Contracts

May 24, 2018
Originally published on May 24, 2018 1:07 pm

Top Democrats in the Kansas House and Senate will request investigations into the use of no-bid state contracts, but the proposals will need the approval of some Republican lawmakers to advance.

The Kansas Department of Revenue used a no-bid process, called prior authorization, to award a multi-million dollar contract that outsourced some information technology services earlier this spring. 

A Wichita Eagle story found the no-bid process had been used more than 1,000 times since 2011.

House Minority Leader Jim Ward plans to request the creation of a joint legislative committee to study the use of no-bid contracts before lawmakers convene in January. That request would need to be approved by a panel of legislative leaders, including from the Legislature’s commanding Republican majority, who will set the committee calendar for the coming months.

“This is about the public’s right to know how their money’s being spent, how their most confidential and private information is being protected and to ensure that state government runs the way it’s supposed to,” Ward said.

Another top Democrat, Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, said he’ll request an audit of the contracting process. That proposal would need the approval of the  Legislature’s audit committee, or at least the Republican chairman of the committee, if it’s deemed to be a small audit.

The probe would “see whether they’re, number one, legal, and number two, if they’re at all appropriate or ethical,” Hensley said.

A spokesperson for Republican Senate President Susan Wagle said she couldn’t be reached to comment on the proposals. Republican House Speaker Ron Ryckman’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Revenue Secretary Sam Williams defended the process this week in a newspaper column, saying it made sense to use a no-bid contract to ink a deal with software provider CGI because the agency already had a relationship with the company.

“Starting from scratch and building a completely new system would have cost taxpayers significantly more,” Williams said.

He said the Eagle story found more than 1,000 instances of no-bid contracts being used, but open-bid contracts were used almost 6,000 times.

Williams said the agency had followed all applicable rules when using the no-bid process.

“Prior authorization is a legitimate state procurement process defined in statute for this very type of circumstance,” Williams said.

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

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