- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Most directors overseeing Idaho agencies say the state’s contracting system works fairly well, even though some agree changes should be made to help prevent future scandals surrounding Idaho’s most expensive business agreements.

Idaho lawmakers reviewed feedback from state directors on Tuesday, while discussing Idaho procurement policies. The legislative interim committee is tasked with finalizing a recommendation for the 2016 legislative session.

Lawmakers commissioned the panel after the Legislature this year rejected proposals from the state’s purchasing division seeking to fine-tune the oversight process.

According to anonymous responses collected from more than 50 agencies, directors said they wanted more training for staff on contracting laws.

For example, one respondent noted that smaller agencies do not always have full-time staffers that can navigate the state’s purchasing laws and procedures. The director warned that mishandled purchasing agreements can result in scandals, but agencies have limited resources to oversee the purchasing process.

Other responses requested more help from Idaho’s Division of Purchasing - which manages some of the statewide agreements - in drafting contract solicitations along with clear guidelines on purchasing processes.

Flexibility to deviate from statewide contracts was also important, said legislative analyst Robyn Lockett. That’s because some agencies have found cheaper contracting options on a local level, rather than relying on the state’s service.

Idaho’s system has come under scrutiny, particularly after a district judge in February voided a $60 million contract that provided broadband access in public schools. The judge determined state officials violated Idaho procurement laws by amending the contract after it had been awarded.

Around the same time, state evaluators revealed Idaho wasted $61 million on a software system used to track and improve student performance because it contracted a vendor unequipped to serve a statewide platform.

A year before, private prison giant Corrections Corp. of America pulled out of Idaho after more than a decade of scandals and lawsuits surrounding its operation of the state’s largest prison. CCA has acknowledged it showed the state incorrect staffing reports that fell short of the contractually obligated amount of guards on duty in 2012.

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