Rose’s Legislation Would Relax Procurement Rules To Save State Universities Millions

State Senator Chapin Rose of Mahomet.

St. Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) speaking on the Senate floor in 2013.

(AP Photo/Seth Pearlman)

State Senator Chapin Rose says procurement rules put in place to address corruption during the Blagojevich era are too top-heavy and bureaucratic. So the Mahomet Republican will file legislation next week to scale back the rules the state uses when purchasing goods and service --- at least for state universities.

Rose says the rules add tens of millions of dollars to higher education expenses, because many otherwise qualified low bidders don’t make it through. He says they’re either rejected because of technicalities with paperwork --- or never apply in the first place, because they’ve decided the process is too much trouble to bother with. Plus, Rose argued that some procurement officers complicate the process by adding their own interpretations of what is required in a particular proposal.

“What I’m going to propose as a starting point for discussion, is that we no longer have the state procurement officers involved on the front end”, said Rose at a Friday news conference. “But the universities would manage their own procurements in-house. So they'd manage their own timelines, no more lost bids to people in Springfield not returning phone calls or not getting their work done on time.”

Rose says his legislation would streamline vendor paperwork requirements, no longer requiring that each proposal be cleared through a procurement officer in Springfield. Instead, he says vendors would “self-certify”, stating under penalty of perjury in an affidavit that their bids contained no conflict of interest or other ethical problems. Then, once procurements are awarded, procurement officers would randomly audit them for compliance, with violators facing criminal and civil penalties.

Rose says his proposal would make the procurement code “smarter”, not get rid of it. , but make it “smarter”.

“Pendulums swing; we need to find a happy medium here, somewhere”, said Rose.

Sen. Rose says his proposal grew out of testimony state university presidents gave last month at a state Senate Appropriations Committee (Rose serves on Appropriations Committee II).  While the presidents were there to voice concerns about proposed state funding cuts to higher education, they also mentioned the cost of procurement rules. University of Illinois President Robert Easter said that the rules cost the university $70 million, but that the true cost was in missing out on vendors who were unwilling to go through the complex procurement process.

Taking the idea of procurement costs further, Rose said that his proposal could save up to $135 million when applied to all state universities.

Rose says his proposal may be revised more than once in the legislation process, and may not pass in time to affect the next budget. But if passed, he thinks it could save state universities some 100 million dollars a year. And Rose if the procurement changes are successful for state universities, he says they could then be applied to other parts of state government, for an estimated potential savings of more than $500 million.

Story source: WILL