Is there enough contract control?

Sprague wants more oversight, mayor’s office says that isn’t necessary

Posted: Monday, January 08, 2007

Assembly member Pete Sprague, of Soldotna, has introduced an ordinance that would require assembly approval when contracts are awarded under borough purchasing rules even when the money for the contract work has already been accounted for in annual budgets.

“Although it is not a code requirement, the assembly has in past years approved bid awards by resolution,” Sprague said in a December memo to the assembly. “The administration has decided that assembly approval is no longer necessary. I believe that it is in the public’s best interest, as well as good policy, for the assembly to retain this oversight, even if the dollar amount in question has been approved in the budget.”

Sprague suggested a threshold of $50,000 to trigger assembly action.

The assembly approved introduction of Sprague’s measure at its Tuesday meeting. It is set for public hearing at the Feb. 2 meeting in Soldotna.

The borough’s purchasing code currently authorizes the mayor, pursuant to an award of a contract in accordance with code, to “contract with any person to acquire any supplies, services, professional services or construction required by the borough.”

Sprague’s ordinance would add two provisions to the contracting authority that would encode assembly approval of contracts.

The first would require assembly approval for every borough contract, contract modification, or change order exceeding $50,000, except for emergency procurements authorized under another section of the code. For sums under $50,000, the assembly would not have to be involved.

The second requires that the assembly be provided with copies of change orders and/or the contract amendment when modifications and change orders cause the total value of the contract to exceed the mayor’s $50,000 authority.

Speaking Friday for Mayor John Williams, who was not available, assistant Bill Popp said the mayor’s office feels the ordinance is unnecessary, redundant.

It would add to the government’s bottom line at a time when the administration is trying to hold the line on staffing and costs, he said.

“It is another layer of bureaucracy and expense, which we have been trying to eliminate,” Popp said. “We have a strong budget process wherein large purchases are reviewed on an annual basis. We have a healthy and robust purchasing code that has demonstrated time and again how it protects the interests of the borough and the citizens of the borough.”

Popp said the current and prior administrations had done good jobs making sure the purchasing process is transparent, and would continue to do so.

“The borough never has had a record of keeping information from the assembly. Administrations past, present and future will continue to achieve the goals set out by the assembly when making purchases.”

Popp said the mayor’s office viewed Sprague’s measure as “a step backwards.”

The measure is Ordinance 2007-01.

Hal Spence can be reached at harold.spence@peninsulaclarion.com.



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