Rauner: State can save $500M on purchases

Republican Bruce Rauner smiles after winning the midterm elections in Chicago, Illinois, November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Young

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday urged a streamlining of procurement – the way the state buys goods and services – saying it could save the state $500 million annually.

Rauner, R-Winnetka, and Republican lawmakers say reforms to the procurement system would speed the process, save money and get the state and its taxpayers better results.

Illinois has four chief procurement officers as well as a Policy Procurement Board, the governor said.

“We’ve got everybody involved,” Rauner said. “it’s a convoluted process where nobody’s in charge.”
Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, a member of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, spoke at Rauner’s news conference, citing examples of how complex the system is and how its benefits can be hard to measure.

In one case, he said, three national providers with “phalanxes” of bid specialists and lawyers were the only vendors bidding on a $3 billion, multi-year prescription drug contract. After a months-long first round of the bid process, all were rejected for technical errors, he said.

Rose said his question to the procurement officer on whether any money was actually saved was met with, “Absolutely – we don’t know.”

Rauner, R-Winnetka, said he supports putting the governor in charge of the procurement system and increasing the duties and the authority of the auditor general’s office when it comes to the procurement process.

The governor is backing legislation by Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, and Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry.

“Let’s get reforms done so we’ve got the money rather than only proposing bills to spend more when we’re basically out of cash,” Rauner said.

“Procurement has been one of the  largest sources of waste and abuse in our state,” he said. “It’s frustrating – the level of incompetence and inefficiency in the system, and we really need to change this as quickly as we can.”

The governor said money saved from procurement reform and dumping expensive yet inefficient state properties such as the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago could fund a big portion of higher education costs, including the Monetary Award Program (MAP grants) and help for community colleges.

Backers says the legislation, House Bill 4644 would, among other things:

  • Establish a pool of prequalified vendors for certain purchases;
  • Reduce the burdens on universities through exemptions for certain education-related purchases;
  • Create a preference for buying supplies and services from Illinois businesses.
  • Allow Illinois to “piggyback” on other state’s purchases and more freely participate in purchasing cooperatives.

“We look forward to exploring their ideas,” said John Patterson, spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago.

Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said House Democrats would look at the proposals, but he also advised caution.
“Scandals in previous administrations, both Republican and Democrat, led to the procurement policies that are on the books now,” Brown said.

One of the duties of the Procurement Policy Board is to advise the Legislature, Brown said.

“In the wake of scandals, I think they (lawmakers) would be slow-moving to make changes that the Procurement Policy Board doesn’t sign off on,” Brown said.

The Procurement Policy Board is made up of five members, one each appointed by the four legislative leaders and one by the governor. The governor’s appointee serves as chairman.

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