CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State agencies across West Virginia must now get written approval before they use statewide contracts to buy goods and services that cost more than $250,000.
The policy change follows federal and state reviews of West Virginia's decision to buy more than 1,000 Internet routers that cost $24 million.
The state Office of Technology bought the routers two years ago under a statewide contract typically used for routine and repetitive purchases. The state Purchasing Division wasn't notified about the router transaction.
Earlier this week, the West Virginia Purchasing Division sent emails to more than 170 state agencies about the revamped purchasing rules. The new regulations take effect on Friday.
"For future purchases from our master contracts, this procedural change will provide the Purchasing Division advance notice," said Diane Holley-Brown, a Department of Administration spokeswoman. "The department continually assesses purchasing procedures to ensure the best policies and practices."
Under the tighter rules, state agencies must send a memo to the Purchasing Division when they plan to use a statewide contract to buy items that cost $250,000 or more. Statewide contracts are competitively bid.
The memo must include "a synopsis of the purchase, the item [name], the participating vendor, the bidding information, any award justification and the amount," according to a draft of the new rules in the state purchasing "handbook."
The Purchasing Division must sign off on the request before agencies can pay vendors.
State officials acknowledged Thursday that the $24 million router transaction contributed to the policy change. But they said that wasn't the only high-dollar purchase the state has made under a statewide contract.
"When making changes to procedures, we take a responsible approach and look at everything, not an isolated situation," Holley-Brown said.
In 2010, West Virginia received a $126.3 million federal stimulus grant to bring high-speed Internet to 1,064 "community anchor institutions" - schools, libraries, state agencies, 911 centers, county courthouses, health clinics and other public facilities.
That year, the state used $24 million from the grant to buy the routers under an existing 2007 statewide contract for "Internet Voice Protocol Communications." The contract mentioned nothing about routers.
A team of former and current state officials authorized the router purchase, and the Office of Technology signed off on the transaction.
West Virginia law specifies that state agencies use such statewide contracts for "commodities that are needed on a repetitive basis..."