A report issued by the Office of the Inspector General at the Texas Education Agency has shed light on a contracting process ripe for fraud and abuse.

It is alleged that individuals received large subcontracts from one of the Education Service Centers, divisions of state government, to perform tasks originally contracted by the TEA. These individuals had personal ties to high-ranking appointees within the TEA, creating for some the appearance of impropriety.

While TEA staff has denied allegations of wrong-doing, one of their defenses has been that state law actually allows the TEA to skirt competitive bidding when dealing with the service centers.

“This is a system crying out to be abused, by layering subcontracts underneath non-competitive contracts. For the sake of Texas’ taxpayers, it needs to be reformed,” said Michael Quinn Sullivan, president and CEO of Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (www.EmpowerTexans.com). “The inspector general’s report, and the TEA’s response, makes it clear that well-placed insiders can manipulate highly-lucrative taxpayer-funded contracts without the hassle or sunlight of competitive bidding.”

Sullivan announced that a website has been established to let Texans – taxpayers, agency employees, contractors and others – raise red flags about spending abuse, whether through contracting, employment or other means. The website is at www.SpendingResponsibly.org.

“Anytime the law allows government officials to dance in the shadows with the taxpayers’ money, the people are right to demand more sunlight,” added Sullivan.

He said that reforming the state’s contracting laws should be high on the legislature’s agenda for interim study and action during the next legislative session. Not only should the lowest bid among the qualified bidders always receive the contract, but they should be given clear benchmarks for measuring results.

“While outsourcing projects and programs is good for taxpayers, a truly transparent, competitive bidding process must be in place. Regardless of contractors’ personal ties to government decision-makers, the lowest bid representing the best value to taxpayers should always be selected. Otherwise, it simply becomes a cash-cow for insiders to enrich their friends while soaking the taxpayers.”

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