Reform state purchasing now

Photo by Todd Wiseman

If you follow the news at all, you probably know that Texas state government has taken a black eye recently over the issue of state contracts. Multiple reports have highlighted questionable no-bid contracts, overpayments and poor service.

The cascade of bad news has ensured that state contracting and purchasing activities are on everyone’s mind this legislative session. As comptroller, I follow this issue carefully.

The comptroller, as the state’s chief financial officer, contracts for and buys goods and services on the state’s behalf. My office handles a significant share of routine state purchasing, primarily for commodities like office supplies and fleet vehicles as well as many services.

But many other state entities are also involved. For example, the state’s Department of Information Resources is responsible for major purchases of information technology and related services. And dozens of other state agencies contract for goods and services as well, subject to a bewildering number of state and federal laws and policies.

It’s a complex system at best — and one that billions of our tax dollars pass through each year. But it’s precisely because of this complexity that we must do everything in our power to ensure that the process remains open, transparent and trustworthy.

I commend state Sen. Jane Nelson on her recent legislation to encourage more transparency and accountability in the purchasing process at all state agencies. And I support Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for immediate action to ensure that state purchasing is conducted openly and with full disclosure of any conflicts of interest.

Such action is essential. Texans must feel confident that their tax dollars are being used wisely, efficiently and fairly. And they should be able to count on every state agency to provide the best possible service at the lowest possible cost.

That's why I, upon entering office in January, began a top-to-bottom review of the entire agency with a particular focus on the comptroller’s role in state contracting. 

More recently, I convened an informal task force to provide recommendations for best practices in all state purchasing and contracting programs. Our goal was to address weaknesses, remove inconsistencies and strengthen reporting requirements. My hope is to improve the entire spectrum of contracting and purchasing in state government — from the procurement stage to the drafting of contracts and, finally, to the need for careful contract management and oversight.

We moved quickly to assemble this group so that the Legislature and governor could use our proposals in crafting vital reforms while the Legislature is in session. The task force included purchasing officers, legal counsel and information technology personnel from several state agencies. These experts took a hard look at the issues and developed a series of recommendations, which I plan to share with the Legislature.

I want Texans to know that my office is already taking steps to ensure that these reforms, as well as those in Nelson’s bill and Abbott’s letter to state agency heads, are incorporated in every aspect of our purchasing and contracting procedures.

Our foremost commitment is to ensure and facilitate the wise stewardship of taxpayer dollars, and tackling this issue head-on is an important part of that commitment. I stand ready to work with Nelson, Abbott and the entire Texas Legislature as they undertake this effort.

Glenn Hegar

Comptroller of Texas