On Tuesday, members of the Texas House Appropriations Committee asked a series of questions to the Legislative Budget Board, revealing some $179 billion dollars in state government contracts are out of compliance with a state transparency law.
The law requires vendors of state contracts to submit pertinent information on their existing and completed contracts to the Texas Comptroller. The documents are to be put in the comptroller’s Vendor Performance Tracking System (VPTS), which collects information on the entities fulfilling the duties they are hired on a contract-by-contract basis to perform for the state.
Jake Pugh, Manager of the LBB’s Contracts Oversight and Technology Team, gave a troubling presentation to the committee on “the current state of contract reporting in [the LBB] site’s database, some issues impacting contract reporting, and [their] teams involvement in monitoring risk in contract oversight.”
After the presentation, Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) took to social media to share the committee’s findings:
$179.3 billion worth of TX government contracts w/ supporting info are not being reported to the Comptroller’s Vendor Performance Tracking System as required by state law. Only 14.8% of eligible contracts are in compliance. #txlege
— Matt Schaefer (@RepMattSchaefer) January 29, 2019
“What I learned in the Appropriations committee hearing this am: Texas law requires government vendor performance information to be reported to the Comptroller’s Vendor Performance Tracking System (VPTS) for purchases over $25,000. This means uploading supporting .pdfs of the contracts,” Schaefer said on Facebook. “Only 14.8% of 37,316 eligible government contracts have complied. The value of the contracts which do not comply is $179.3 billion.”
In Pugh’s presentation, he said he didn’t know how or why so many vendors were not reporting in compliance with the law.
According to the Comptroller’s website, the VTPS “provides the state procurement community with a comprehensive tool for evaluating vendor performance to reduce risk in the contract awarding process.”
The system “tracks and provides performance scores for all vendors issued purchase orders from a CPA term contract” and “tracks performance for vendors that were awarded contracts through delegated and exempt purchasing methods that have received performance evaluations.”
One of the main purposes of the system is to “protect the state from vendors with unethical business practices,” but it is unclear whether the program has successfully done that or if it is even able to, considering nearly 85 percent of all contracts that should be included in the system’s reporting are not obtained by the Comptroller’s Office.
The program, implemented to provide Texans with a simple A-F grading system of vendors’ job performances using taxpayer money, will remain a mechanism of transparency and accountability only in theory—unless lawmakers are able to find a way to increase participation from a measly 14.8 percent.