Amy Lester, Oklahoma Impact Team
State workers are speaking out after they're forced to pay more for some things they buy with taxpayer dollars. They first expressed frustration to our Oklahoma Impact Team in May and now they're telling lawmakers about it.
In an interim study, OSBI's Procurement and Facilities Manager Mary Reznicek told lawmakers that mandatory state contracts don't always have the lowest price. She insists that she could save money by purchasing items online or at local stores, instead.
"For our agency, we're not seeing a lot of savings," Reznicek said.
Reznicek says OSBI pays 800 percent more for pencils; 18 cents instead of two. She spends $308 instead of $40 for Blu Ray discs, and 1,000 percent higher for ink pens.
"We're still under budget cuts and possible furloughs and it's just a way to save money. That's the bottom line, saving taxpayer dollars," Reznicek said.
If an items on a mandatory statewide contract, state employees can fill out paperwork for an exception. The Department of Central Services can then decide if the agency should buy the item from a vendor outside of the contract vendor. Typically, it takes a few days to approve the purchase of a less expensive item. Reznicek says that takes time and delays the purchase. She wants permission to buy cheaper items without filling out paperwork. If an item is on a mandatory state use contract, there is no exception allowed based on price. In those cases, agencies must pay the higher price.
Reznicek is asking legislators to revoke mandatory language in statewide contracts and allow exception requests based on price for state use items. Ultimately, she would like the state to waive required exception requests altogether. Legislators pledge to take a closer look at all of this.
"There are always going to be inefficiencies," said State Rep. Jason Murphey, (R-Guthrie). "That's why our job as policy makers is to listen to issues like this, find out where inefficiencies are and adjust state laws when we see fit."
While OSBI and DOC employees say they're spending too much on some items, the Department of Central Services points out, the agency is saving money by managing and renegotiating contracts. DCS estimates savings to reach an estimated $20 million over the past two fiscal years. Some argue that number could be even more.
We'll keep following this issue and we'll let you know how legislators decide to handle this, next session.