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Idaho Tasks New Committee to Reconstruct State Procurement Process

by

KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes


A bi-partisan, joint-committee of the Idaho Legislature is set to convene Monday, Aug. 22 to consider further changes to the state's procurement law.

The effort to overhaul the process by which Idaho doles out millions of dollars came in the shadow of controversy surrounding the (ultimately illegal) contract awarded to Education Networks of America to run the now-defunct Idaho Education Network.

A district judge ruled in 2014 that the Idaho Department of Administration violated the state's procurement law by awarding the $60 million contract to ENA and telecom company Qwest despite the fact that a competitor's bid came in lower. Former DOA Director Mike Gwartney was accused of rigging the deal in favor of Qwest—now Centurylink—and it was later discovered then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, who announced the deal, also had direct ties to the contract winner, which employed a former aide and a campaign staffer. 

A committee convened in 2015 looked into the procurement law and delivered its findings to the 2016 Legislature, including:
  • State purchasing laws have't been significantly revised since the 1970s.
  • Purchasing laws would benefit from revision, reorganization and re-codification in their own chapter of Idaho Code.
  • Ethical standards for all persons involved in the procurement process should be prescribed by law.
That 2015 committee even proposed a measure to create a new State Procurement Act, which passed unanimously in the House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter.


The 2016 Legislature also agreed to create a new committee to further study how the state needs to reconstruct its procurement process. The new, bi-partisan committee of 10 members of the Idaho House and Senate will convene Monday at the Statehouse and has already scheduled four additional meetings between now and mid-November. The committee is co-chaired by Sen. Fred Martin (R-Boise) and Rep. Neil Anderson (R-Blackfoot).

Editor's Note: This story has been amended to add detail to the 2014 ruling that the Idaho Department of Administration violated the state's procurement law.