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Reform State Purchasing Now

Feb. 23, 2015

If you follow the news at all, you probably know Texas state government has taken a black eye recently over the issue of state contracts. Multiple stories have highlighted questionable no-bid contracts, overpayments and poor service.

But the cascade of bad news has ensured state contracting and purchasing activities are on everyone’s mind this legislative session. And as Comptroller, I follow this issue very carefully.

The Comptroller, as the state’s chief financial officer, contracts for and buys goods and services on the state’s behalf. We handle a significant share of routine state purchasing, primarily for commodities such as office supplies and fleet vehicles, as well as many services.

However, many other state entities are also involved. For example, the state’s Department of Information Resources is responsible for major purchases of information technology and related services. And dozens of other state agencies contract for goods and services as well, subject to a bewildering number of state and federal laws and policies.

It’s a complex system at best — and one that billions of our tax dollars pass through each year. But it’s precisely because of this complexity that we must do everything in our power to ensure the process remains open, transparent, and trustworthy.

I commend Senator Jane Nelson on her recent legislation to create greater transparency and accountability in the purchasing process at all state agencies. And I support Governor Abbott’s call for immediate action to ensure that state purchasing is conducted openly and with full disclosure of any conflicts of interest.

Such action is essential. Texans must feel confident that their tax dollars are being used wisely, efficiently and fairly. And they should be able to count on every state agency to provide the best possible service at the lowest possible cost.

This is why, upon entering office in January, I began a top to bottom review of the entire agency with a particular focus on the Comptroller’s role in state contracting.

Even more recently, I convened an informal task force to provide recommendations for best practices in all state purchasing and contracting programs. Our goal was to address weaknesses, remove inconsistencies and strengthen reporting requirements. My hope is to improve the entire spectrum of contracting and purchasing in state government – from the procurement stage to the drafting of contracts, and finally to the need for careful contract management and oversight.

We moved quickly in assembling this group so the Legislature and governor could use our proposals in crafting vital reforms while the Legislature is in session. The task force included purchasing officers, legal counsel and information technology personnel from several state agencies. These experts took a hard look at the issues and developed a series of recommendations, which I plan to share with the Legislature.

I want you to know my office is already taking steps to ensure these reforms, as well as those outlined in Senator Nelson’s bill and Governor Abbott’s letter, are incorporated in every aspect of our purchasing and contracting procedures.

Our foremost commitment is to ensure and facilitate the wise stewardship of taxpayer dollars, and tackling this issue head on is an important part of that commitment. I stand ready to work with Senator Nelson, Governor Abbott and the entire Texas Legislature as they undertake this effort.