Senators introduce legislation to save college students and taxpayers as much as $100 million per year

 State Senators Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet), Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington), Dale Righter (R-Effingham), and Dave Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) say Illinois’ public universities and taxpayers are spending too much when it comes to schools’ purchasing supplies, equipment, and services under Illinois’ top heavy and bureaucratic procurement law in Illinois.

“Illinois’ procurement law is well out of the norm with other states requirements for public institutions of higher learning,” Senator Rose said. “In many cases our public universities are forced to go with a higher priced vendor for something they need to purchase, simply because our procurement law is too complicated to allow the lowest bidder to receive the contract.  Further, there has been a documented pattern of vendors refusing to bid Illinois jobs – which in many case has the effect of raising prices.”

“We have to make sure our universities are able to operate as efficiently as possible, especially in tight budgetary times,” said Senator Barickman. “Right now it appears that bureaucracy and red tape are driving up the cost of an education for students, and taking money out of the taxpayers’ pockets.”

At a recent Senate Appropriations hearing, University of Illinois President Robert Easter estimated that procurement requirements may cost the university as much as $70 million a year. The numbers themselves are hard to quantify because it’s impossible to put an exact price on the number of vendors not bidding. 

Nonetheless, here are some serious, actual examples of why this Code needs reformed:

University of Illinois:

–       As much as $70 million a year according to the U of I President Bob Easter.

–       A 2013 purchase of a steam kettle cost more than $15,000 higher than budgeted simply because of delays in the bid process.

–       The University lost a bid renewal for the purchase of laboratory animals due to the deadline for a disclosure form and miscommunication between the vendor and purchasing. This resulted in the entire bid process having to be repeated. The contracted pricing was then lost in this process, and the end result was a costlier product.

Illinois State University:

In response to an RFP for Computer Aided Facilities Management System, ISU received six proposals. Due to technical restrictions, ISU had to reject five of the six proposals. The only vendor they could accept a bid from was $150,000 – $240,000 more than the three lowest-priced vendors who had otherwise-valid proposals.

Southern Illinois University:

–       SIU’s President has testified that the procurement code costs his University millions as well.

–       For the purchase of a chemical storage building, the lowest bidder was not registered with the Secretary of State. The next bid was more than $144,000 higher. The project is now in the process of a re-bid. The final contract amount is unknown.

–       For the purchase of bakery products, the vendor was slow to respond to the financial disclosure requirement. That required an extra $8,000 in spending with another vendor.

Eastern Illinois University:

–       Simply put, EIU says the increase in paperwork has led to costly delays in procuring goods and services.

–       The University says they are losing vendors due to paperwork levels.

“It has become clear that when the state’s new procurement laws were enacted, an unintended consequence was the additional financial costs that have been endured by our state’s universities,” said Senator David Luechtefeld. “We must provide our schools some flexibility with the procurement laws and I believe this law will not deflect our overall goal of a more transparent budgetary and purchasing process.”

“It is unconscionable that bureaucratic red tape is continuing to syphon hundreds of millions of dollars out of our classrooms,” said Senator Righter. “We owe it to the taxpayers, the students, and our universities to explore every option available to pull together more resources to allow our institutions of higher learning to continue providing the best education available.”

Senators Rose, Barickman, Luechtefeld and Righter believe they have a solution in the form of SB1095, filed on April 16. The legislation would:

–       All public universities in Illinois would be given the flexibility to do their own procurement in-house on the front end.

–       Vendor paperwork requirements would be streamlined and they could “self–certify” under penalty of perjury via an affidavit, that there were no conflicts of interest or other untoward dealings in their bid.

–       Awards would be posted online.

–       After contracts are awarded, state procurement officers would randomly audit awarded procurements for compliance – any violators would face perjury charges. 

–       On procurements involving federal awards, the federal procurement laws would take precedent.

“The goal here is simple, every dollar we save is more money that can be spent in the classroom,” said Senator Barickman. “We can increase the available funds for our universities without further stretching our state, and its residents’, extremely tight pocketbooks.”

“We need to streamline the purchasing process now,” Rose said. “In a time of extreme budget cuts, when was the last time Springfield provided mandate relief?  We don’t need another dime from the taxpayers or tuition hikes from the students to effectively put $100 million back into higher education,” said Rose. “The current procurement code is a throwback to the Blagojevich era – with changes made after his dealings came to light.  However, with the passage of time, it is now obvious that these changes to Code are themselves exacting a hefty ‘corruption’ tax on Illinois College students, their families, and the taxpayers.”

Chapin Rose

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