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Politics & Government

Utah Lawmakers OK A Proposal To Crack Down On No-Bid Government Contracts

Photo of two forklifts in a large warehouse full of cardboard boxes.
Sonja Hutson
/
KUER
State law allows for no-bid contracts whenever there is a declared emergency. Utah has been in a state of emergency related to the pandemic since early March, but voluntarily stopped using no-bid contracts in early May.

Utah lawmakers have been criticizing pandemic-related no-bid contracts for almost as long as the pandemic has been going on.

Now, the Legislature is considering a bill that would require information about each no-bid emergency contract to be published online within 2 weeks. The bill requires that each contract not last longer than 30 days, or 60 days if it's in response to a natural disaster. It passed a House committee unanimously Thursday.

The state issued several no-bid contracts during the spring to respond to COVID-19, and legislators on both sides of the aisle have complained that it’s been difficult to get information about those contracts and the state isn’t getting a good deal.

“We're trying to put some caps in place on no-bid contracts, because ultimately the people of this state and our agencies are better served by the competitive bid process,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman.

Currently, state law allows for no-bid contracts whenever there is a declared emergency. Utah has been in a state of emergency related to the pandemic since early March, but voluntarily stopped using no-bid contracts in early May. Since that time, the state has used a regular bidding process.

The state also made all the no-bid contracts available to download online on May 12, about two months after the pandemic started.

Chris Hughes, the state’s Director of Purchasing, said the time limit on no-bid contracts would work well, even with long-lasting emergencies like a pandemic.

“The 30 days and 60 days would give us enough time to be able to assess the emergency purchases and determine whether or not a contract would need to be put into place,” Hughes said.

The bill still needs approval from the full House and the Senate.

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