By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) has sponsored SB30, that will require the State Purchasing Division of the Department of Finance to maintain a statewide database of each request for a bid or proposal for a public contract by the State of Alabama. The bill would also include political subdivisions, agencies, boards, commissions, or departments of the state, the State Board of Education, all public college or trade school, or a public university.
Currently, there are no standards by which these bids are posted for potential vendors or public review.
Orr explained that this process is part of the Contract Review Committee which was established around two decades ago.
The committee had been dominated by Democrats since its inception but is now under the auspices of the Republican-controlled senate.
“My first committee meeting was a real eye-opener,” said Orr. “One of the things that really disturbed me was the lack of publication of notice that the state agencies were providing potential vendors for contract services.” Orr said that at that meeting he asked one of the state agencies how they notified the public about a current contract that was placed out for bid.
“I asked, ‘Well, sir, how did you notify the public that you wanted to purchase this service or purchase these goods?,’” said Orr.
Recounting the incident, Orr said the man looked around at his assistant and the assistant said, “We put it on our website.”
“I asked the man, ‘How many hits to you get on your website?’” said Orr. “Of course they didn’t know.”
Orr said he believed this was a terrible way for the state to conduct business. Immediately after the meeting he walked to the sixth floor of the statehouse and had reference services draft a bill that would require one website that the state would be required to use to post all notices when state agencies had requests for proposals or seeking bids for certain services that they needed.
According to Orr the central internet posting provides better accountability and more transparency to the process. The goal being that there will be a more open bid process resulting in the using tax payers dollars more wisely. There may be a few long-time vendors that might not like the new process, Orr admits, because some may have been getting contracts due to their relationships with state agency heads or state assistant commissioners or people in the top echelons of various agencies.
Orr said, “If the existing vendors, companies and professional services are doing a good job at a fair price then let them compete. But we need to provide a central area where anyone who is interested in the business that is qualified can come and bid and maybe perhaps be awarded a contract.”
Orr says the bill has the support of the Contract Review Chairman Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison).