No-bid contracts wrong for the state

Many people probably think when government needs to buy something big, officials are required to accept the lowest bid. That is not true, and those out to swindle taxpayers are grateful.

Low-bid requirements sometimes can be circumvented, when there are special requirements such as a need to move quickly. Or, in some situations, very specialized purchases can be made through no-bid contracts. Government officials decide who will get such deals — and that is an end to it.

Clearly, no-bid contracts are invitations to wrongdoing. It happens frequently.

It may have occurred in Ohio, according to state Inspector General Randall J. Meyer. In a Dec. 14 report, Meyer explored the relationship between consultants and the state Department of Administrative Services.

Three consultants, Peter Quinn of Advocate Solutions in Columbus and Steven Zielenski and Cynthia Afkhami of Stonyhurst Consulting in Middleburg, Va., “may have colluded” to obtain two state contracts valued at about $469,000, Meyer concluded.

A DAS official may have been involved in rigging the bids, Meyer’s office added. Final approval of many no-bid contracts was that official’s responsibility, according to a report by the Columbus Dispatch.

In response to the newspaper’s investigation and that of Meyer’s office, DAS officials said they have changed bidding procedures. No-bid contracts will be eliminated.

More investigation, perhaps by the General Assembly, is warranted. If bid-rigging was involved, it may well have been illegal. It certainly was not in the best interests of Buckeye State taxpayers.

And if crimes were committed, someone needs to be held accountable. Merely disqualifying companies from doing business with the state and slapping a few bureaucrats on the wrist will not do. That would provide no deterrent whatsoever to those tempted to game the contracting system in the future.

Incoming Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, after serving as state attorney general, certainly should be interested in clamping down on misbehavior in state government, and may have found a good place to start.