More on the Procurement Lawsuit

Chris Flores of the Daily Press has a lot of new information on a story Jim Bacon highlighted earlier in the week–a procurement lawsuit against the Virginia Department of Education.

In a nutshell, it appears the Department of Education awarded a contract to a firm called “Teachers” for a special education teacher recruitment website in 2002. No information is given on how many bids were solicited or received. One year later, the Department apparently decided it wanted a more comprehensive website, so it put out a bid. It appears, from Flores’ reporting, that only Teachers bid on it until the Department, mandated to seek a minority bidder, solicited a bid from E & E. Those were the only two bids received. E & E was the low bidder and from there a series of alleged actions designed to swing the contract to Teachers occurred, leading to the lawsuit. I hope the courts are able to fairly sort it all out; the allegations are serious.

I don’t know all the ins and outs of procurement regulations, but it boggles my mind that in a world where web designers and developers are a dime a dozen, only two bids were received. That’s why I wonder how many bids were received on the 2002 solicitation. Once you get a contract with a state agency, it’s natural that you would have some advantage on additional, similar contracts under the “reinvent the wheel” principle. It’s noteworthy that the Department of Education decided to create a whole new website, instead of modifying/enhancing the existing site that Teachers had established. (As a snide aside, I wonder how many individuals from the Department of Education’s bloated bureaucracy had input into this website. I guess one of them couldn’t be a web designer who would do it “in-house.”)

The “system” seemed to work, if you consider that the Department of Education, as required and cajoled to do, set out on its own to get a minority bidder when no minority bidder responed what probably was a public solicitation. Showing what this lawsuit is really about, however, is this from the plaintiff’s attorney, H. Scott Johnson, Jr.:

Teachers has used the Virginia contract to win work in other states, which is precisely what E&E wanted to do, says the lawsuit, which asks for compensation for those damages.

“They put a lot of time and money and effort into it because they were going to use it as a springboard to win contracts in other states,” Johnson said.

So many government troughs, so little time.

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