CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Legislative Auditor's office is examining the state's $24 million purchase of more than 1,000 "enterprise-class" Internet routers.
In a recent letter, state Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred asked Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato to explain why he and other state officials bypassed formal bidding procedures and selected a single type of high-end router manufactured by Cisco. Allred also wants Gianato to reveal who took part in the decision.
As part of a broadband-expansion project funded by the federal stimulus, West Virginia is removing routers that cost as little as $40 at public facilities and replacing them with $22,400 routers.
"It's $24 million in government funds, so we're looking at this as part of our duties at the Legislative Auditor's office," Allred said Tuesday. "The answers we get will determine what additional questions we'll have."
Allred asked Gianato to respond to the auditor's letter by Thursday.
Gianato would not say Tuesday how he planned to answer Allred's questions.
"We will be responding to the letter by the date requested," Gianato said in an email.
The Legislative Auditor's office started its inquiry on Aug. 2, after House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, grilled Gianato about the routers during last month's legislative interim meetings.
Allred also said Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Commerce inspector general recently contacted his office. The federal inspector general started a review of West Virginia's broadband stimulus spending last month.
"We're cooperating with them as well," Allred said.
In 2010, West Virginia received a $126.3 million federal stimulus grant to expand high-speed Internet at 1,064 "community anchor institutions" -- schools, libraries, state agencies, 911 centers, county courthouses, health-care clinics and other public facilities.
West Virginia used $24 million from the grant to purchase the high-end routers. The state is installing the pricey equipment primarily in schools and libraries, even though the Cisco 3945 series routers were designed to serve college campuses, major medical centers and large corporations.
Every public facility -- no matter the size -- is getting the same large router.
In his letter, Allred said a comprehensive bid process "would have allowed the bidding to be opened up to other manufacturers such as 3Com [Corp.], and it could have also allowed the opportunity for different sizes of routers to be offered for the various locations throughout the state."
Instead, West Virginia officials -- Gianato and three others on the state's "broadband grant implementation team" - selected the Cisco routers and executed the $24 million purchase through the state's "secondary bid process," using an existing 2007 statewide technology equipment contract.