- Associated Press - Monday, January 26, 2015

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Comptroller Peter Franchot said Monday he plans to call for a series of reforms to how Maryland officials handle contracts with companies that do work for the state.

Franchot, a Democrat, criticized the state’s procurement process after he was sworn in to a third term as the state’s tax collector by Gov. Larry Hogan. The Republican governor said he agrees with the comptroller on many subjects and described him as “my good friend.”

The cordiality between Franchot and Hogan is significant, because they are two of three members of the Board of Public Works, which votes on most state contracts valued at over $200,000.

Franchot said too many contracts come before the board without competition. That, he said, practically forces the board to award contracts without being sure the state is getting the best possible deal.

“For too often, we’re presented with contracts that practically put a gun to our head, where we don’t have adequate time to fix procedural issues,” Franchot said. “Instead, we are faced with an unacceptable choice between agreeing to a bad deal for taxpayers or discontinuing a service that they desperately need.”

Franchot has been a frequent critic of the state’s procurement process for state contracts. He often cast the lone “no” vote on contracts that came before the board over the last eight years, when former Gov. Martin O’Malley and Treasurer Nancy Kopp - the board’s other member - formed a two-vote majority needed to approve state contracts.

Hogan suggested that dynamic on the board will change.

“I think you will see with our administration, there is going to be a new era of cooperation between the governor’s office and the comptroller’s office,” Hogan said.

Franchot also said the board is too often asked to issue retroactive approval of contracts, in which work already has been done before the board has a chance to approve the contract.

“Let me be clear, retroactive approval isn’t approval at all,” Franchot said. “It’s nothing more than sanctioning a particular agency to end run the Board of Public Works in a process that’s specifically designed to ensure transparency and competition.”

Franchot also said the process hurts the state’s business economy.

“This broken system does a profound disservice to our taxpayers, because it prevents us from insuring that public dollars are being spent appropriately and efficiently,” Franchot said.

He added, “it does considerable harm to Maryland’s economy and business climate, because it leaves far too many on the outside looking in, believing that the rules of the game are rigged in favor of a few well-connected players.”

Franchot also called for a moratorium on increases in taxes or fees.

“For the sake of our long-term economic viability we must establish and abide by a multi-year moratorium on all new or increased taxes and fees,” Franchot said.


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