Audit Reveals Problems With State COVID-19 Contracts
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The KSL Investigators have learned the state of Utah has spent $11 million in controversial no-bid contracts in the fight against COVID-19.
A state legislative audit revealed multiple problems Tuesday with how those contracts were procured.
“This audit really takes on a tone of some lessons learned,” said Brian Dean with the Office of Legislative Auditor General.
Certain contracts, it said, may not have needed to be fulfilled so quickly, “allowing for greater competition.”
It also determined current state laws may be “outdated,” since “technology has allowed for improved competition, even during an emergency.”
“Maybe some provisions of statute could be clarified to allow for, you know, what truly constitutes an emergency in which we need to act immediately, versus, ‘Hey, we can take a little bit more time to ensure greater competition,’” Dean said.
In a month and a half long, limited review of this state spending, senior supervisor of the audit, Jesse Martinson, said two contracts stood out — the NOMI contract for Test Utah and the controversial Healthy Together app with Twenty Labs.
That contract with app developers was one the KSL Investigators have been following for months.
The app was purchased for millions, with the promise of helping with contact tracing. That function of the app is now dead.
The review said vital experts were not consulted in the bid process for the Healthy Together app.
The audit also said both the Department of Purchasing and state health departments weren’t brought in until the “final formation of the contract.”
“In the beginning, the real issue was these experts weren’t really called upon to kind of weigh in and give their expertise,” Martinson said.
It also cited “poor collaboration” and “confusion” with who was actually in charge of overseeing the contract work, and that concerns raised by state lawyers may not have been heeded.
“It was moving at such a rapid pace that when concerns were presented, we’re not sure that they were fully vetted,” Dean said.
Both auditors told KSL these contracts did not appear to violate the law, but they did make recommendations to “improve clearer lines of communication” and to look at law changes that might clarify what emergencies would constitute no-bid contracts, and who would be in charge of them.
“Could we have avoided some of these things? I don’t know,” Martinson said. “Honestly, we do know it certainly could have helped.”
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