- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 25, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Latest on testimony by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s technology chief before a House appropriations committee:

7:55 p.m.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s technology chief says the $208,000 his agency has contracted to pay an executive-assistance firm is necessary because Illinois is upgrading a digital system in a rapidly changing technological world.

Hardik Bhatt (BAHT’) is secretary of the Department of Innovation and Technology. He appeared before the House Appropriations-General Services Committee a day after The Associated Press reported his actions. He signed three annual contracts for a $50,000 membership on a leadership council and two annual $29,000 subscriptions for a second council under the Virginia-based CEB Inc.

Committee members wanted Bhatt to explain the benefit of the memberships while Illinois is in a two-year budget stalemate. As a result, thousands of service providers are going without getting paid.

Bhatt says CEB networking allows him to ask peers about specific technology, something he can’t do with vendors under Illinois procurement law. He also says it arranges for the state to test technology before deciding to buy it.

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5:30 p.m.

Democrats on the House Appropriations-General Services Committee pounded Gov. Bruce Rauner’s technology chief over a transfer last fall of general revenue available for human services bills to funds to pay computer vendors.

Chicago Democratic Rep. Will Guzzardi suggested the transfer of $71 million into special accounts for the use of the Department of Innovation and Technology were unnecessary. That is because the agency had about $85 million on hand to pay bills.

The transfer was made by lame-duck Republican Comptroller Leslie Munger after she lost a November special election to Democrat Susana Mendoza. Mendoza has been a thorn in Republican Rauner’s side over spending during a two-year budget stalemate.

Hardik Bhatt (BAHT’) is secretary of the agency known as DoIT. He pointed out that spending on technology aids human services and public safety.

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