(AUSTIN)—The Texas Senate Government Organization Committee, chaired by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, today (Aug. 14) heard extensive testimony about improving procedures and oversight for Texas’ thousands of state contracts, valued cumulatively at more than $100 billion of the state’s $200 billion budget.
“State agencies’ monitoring and reporting processes for contracting are vitally important,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Good management of programs and resources is in the public interest and allows limited state dollars to go further.”
Charged by Lt. Governor David Dewhurst with reviewing and recommending improvements to contract oversight and related state agency training, policies and procedures, the committee heard invited and public testimony from state agency officials and stakeholders.
“Prudent management of state revenue requires that agencies monitor contracts for fiscal as well as program compliance,” said Senator Zaffirini, who has championed improving state contracting and oversight since 2001, filing legislation during seven legislative sessions.
In 2013 she authored and passed Senate Bill (SB) 1681, which enhanced contract oversight by requiring the comptroller to develop training programs for contract managers; consult with state agencies in developing forms, contract terms and criteria; establish a uniform evaluation process; and track vendor performance.
Several witnesses at today’s hearing asserted the importance of proper training for state employees who manage contracts.
“The large number of contracts and the variety of statutory contracting methods demands an active and wide-ranging training program for The Texas Department of Transportation’s contract managers,” said Jim Bass, Chief Financial Officer for TxDOT.
Other witnesses stressed effective communication with state contractors.
“We need to make sure we set the expectations for all of our business customers,” said Amanda Arriaga, assistant director of administration, Texas Department of Public Safety, who also emphasized the importance of communicating information regarding contracting requirements in English and Spanish.
State Auditor John Keel, who audits state contracts regularly, identified areas of improvement in all phases of contract management, including planning, procurement, price establishment and oversight.
Julie Ivie, assistant director of the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), which maintains the state contract database, recommended clarifying and streamlining contract reporting requirements.