CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Senate on Friday unanimously passed Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's purchasing reform bill, designed to prevent reckless spending of federal grant money and stop government agency administrators from circumventing state law when awarding contracts.
"Competitive bidding, from this day forward, is the gold standard in West Virginia," said Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, who heads a legislative committee that worked with Tomblin's office on the bill last summer and fall.
The bill follows two scathing Legislative Auditor reports last year that targeted West Virginia's use of $126.3 million in federal stimulus funds to expand high-speed Internet across the state.
Auditors found that government officials wasted at least $7.9 million -- and maybe up to $15 million -- by buying oversized Internet routers for the project. A follow-up audit revealed that agency administrators skirted purchasing laws for a $38 million microwave tower project designed to improve emergency communications. State officials also ignored directives to stop tower construction.
"They're the reason for this bill being brought before us, otherwise we might not be talking about purchasing at all," Snyder said. "We're trying to tighten the [purchasing] regulations and make defined statements."
Under the bill (SB356), government agencies that used federal grant money to buy equipment and supplies must follow state purchasing regulations.
"If you receive federal grant money, for instance, federal stimulus money, then you're subject to West Virginia purchasing laws," Snyder said Friday on the Senate floor. "You're not exempt."
The bill also gives the secretary of administration and Purchasing Division director the power to stop any contract or purchase that doesn't comply with purchasing laws.