CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- House of Delegates members have killed Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's purchasing-reform bill that would have outlawed a controversial bidding practice that was used to buy high-capacity Internet routers for $24 million.
Tomblin aides said Thursday, though, that the administration would voluntarily phase out the "secondary bid process," which allows state agencies to buy products and services quickly, bypassing formal and comprehensive purchasing rules.
Tomblin proposed the bill (SB363) in response to a scathing auditor's report released in February. State auditors found that high-ranking government officials circumvented purchasing regulations when they used federal stimulus funds to buy more than 1,000 routers as part of a statewide high-speed Internet expansion project in 2010. The audit concluded that the administration wasted at least $7.9 million -- and more likely $15 million -- by purchasing oversized routers using secondary bids.
Tomblin's office plans to put an end to the practice -- even without legislation.
"We're taking the position we'll just stop doing it," said Jason Pizatella, Tomblin's legislative liaison. "We're doing what the Legislative Auditor asked us to do. We don't want to fight with the Legislature on this."
Tomblin's bill passed the Senate on April 3, but the legislation died in the House Finance Committee this week after companies with state contracts complained about the prohibition on secondary bids, according to House members. The companies stood to lose state business.
The bill included other purchasing reforms. Some of those measures -- such as allowing companies sell products via an online auction -- have been added to other bills.
Also, the House of Delegates passed a resolution to create a task force that will study purchasing regulations throughout the year. The task force plans to analyze the American Bar Association's "Model Procurement Code" and may adopt purchasing reforms outlined in the document.
"Clearly, there will be changes in purchasing," said Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson. "The governor has decided we won't use secondary bidding anymore. Competitive bidding is the gold standard."
State agencies typically use the secondary bid process for routine, day-to-day purchases. The agencies use existing statewide contracts to buy smaller items, such as computers and office furniture that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.