- Associated Press - Thursday, April 27, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Lawmakers in Ohio have moved to impose a competitive process on information technology contracts that state officials have been awarding without bids.

Among budget amendments proposed Tuesday in the Ohio House is one that would erase the Department of Administrative Services’ system of no-bid IT contracts by requiring competitive selection of firms and sign-off by a key legislative panel, the Columbus Dispatch reported (https://bit.ly/2oMM8cU ).

The proposal follows an investigation by the newspaper that found department officials sometimes thwarted policy and analysts’ warnings to questionably award millions of dollars of no-bid contracts, often at excessive prices and to firms where former department executives worked. The review looked back to 2011.

The department has held a waiver of competitive selection on such contracts from the state Controlling Board for 45 years. Its spokesman has argued that the arrangement allows flexibility that has saved Ohio taxpayers millions of dollars.

State Rep. Keith Faber, a Celina Republican who spearheaded the amendment, said the newspaper’s findings appeared “indicative of a bigger problem.”

His sentiments were echoed by other members of the House’s budget-writing Finance Committee.

“The concern is you keep going with the same companies without having transparency and going against their own policy,” said state Rep. Jack Cera, a Bellaire Democrat.

The budget change, which still requires House and Senate approval to become law, would apply to contracts worth more than $500,000 over five years for automatic data processing, computer services, electronic publishing services or electronic information services.

Department of Administrative Services spokesman Tom Hoyt said the waiver on competitive selection for specialized work helps “provide continuity of services.”

“It allows for a judgment call to be made by DAS,” he said in the April 2 article detailing findings of the investigation.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, https://www.dispatch.com

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