(AP) Virginia’s $6 billion-a-year contracting system has serious flaws — including multi-million dollar contracts managed by untrained staff and contracts that are prepared without legal review, according to a new state report issued June 13.
The General Assembly’s watchdog agency, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, said in a report that the state’s procurement system sometimes leads to the state overpaying for services or receiving poor quality goods and services.
JLARC said some public funds have been wasted because some state contracts don’t have sufficient built-in legal protections. The report identified one unnamed agency that paid $25,000 for materials and work that were never used and another agency that paid $325,000 for “faulty equipment.”
The report said many agencies do a poor job of managing a contract once procured by the state. JLARC found that “many agency staff have no prior contract administration experience or training,” including on some contracts worth $50 million or more.
“This just blows my mind,” said House Appropriations Chairman S. Chris Jones, who was one of several lawmakers briefed on the report Monday.
The report outlined 30 recommendations to improve state contracting, including giving more training to procurement officials.
Legislators also expressed surprise with the report’s findings that procurement staff at most state agencies don’t seek legal help from the attorney general’s office when developing contracts, including those with unique provisions. Of those who responded when surveyed by JLARC, only 21 percent of procurement staff said they sought help from the AG’s office.
“It is like ludicrous that you could have people like this drafting contracts that aren’t lawyers,” said Republican Del. Dave Albo.
Lawmakers also expressed concern that state contracting policy aimed at steering more state contracting to small and minority owned business owners could be misused. Some lawmakers said they’d heard from state agencies and vendors that some designated small businesses are just pass-throughs, buying goods for the state from stores like Walmart and Amazon while adding a sizeable markup.
— ALAN SUDERMAN, Associated Press