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Report finds issues with Louisiana state procurement agency

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(The Center Square) – The Louisiana legislative auditor found that the state’s procurement agency has no process to prevent agencies from exceeding their spending caps, among other issues.

The recently released report also says the Louisiana Office of State Procurement did not meet its internal goal of completing the request for procurement process in 232 days on average, instead that task took 286 days. Auditors also found that the agency has “multiple data systems and applications to manage its procurement activities, which creates inefficiencies in the process.” Officials at the procurement agency agreed with the finding of upgrading to a single data system, but they had “limited control over the state’s eProcurement system.”

According to the auditor’s report, the Office of State Procurement reviewed and approved 440,783 contracts totaling $44.6 billion between 2016 and 2022. Under state law, the office has the ability to delegate to other agencies the ability to enter into contracts below a certain threshold. During the same time period, agencies entered into 14,677 contracts with a value of $3.3 billion under this delegated purchase authority. Auditors noted that there wasn’t a method for the procurement agency to track whether these agencies were exceeding their delegated purchase authority limits.

The audit also recommended that the Office of State Procurement evaluate contract vendors on an annual basis, even though state law only requires an evaluation at the end of a contract period. The report also said turnover at the office, particularly in the department that handles requests for procurement, is also affecting its ability to monitor contract performance and execute procurement requests in a timely fashion. Turnover at the office between 2016 and 2022 ranged from 13.0% to 21.2% and the report says “inexperienced analysts are not as familiar with state procurement rules and regulations.”

A poll of state agencies found that a majority of them wanted improvements from the Office of State Procurement in its communication and training programs.

In a response letter sent to Legislative Auditor Mike Waguespack, Office of State Procurement Director Tom Ketterer disagreed with most of the audit findings. He said auditors, when polling state agencies, didn’t give them a definition of what constituted efficiency.

Ketterer did agree with a finding by the auditors that it should develop a method to detect irregularities with contracts, including awards going to the same vendor and another that said the agency needed conduct a review of state agencies that exceed their delegated purchase authority limits. He also said in the response that the office’s ability implement some of the auditor’s recommendations was limited since they have 11 vacancies with no enough qualified applicants.

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