Emergency contracts are being questioned by lawmakers. That being there will be a probe as to whether state agencies have, in fact, had too much leeway in securing the contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is following a controversy over a data breach with a vendor that was hiring to administer a New England region’s contact tracing program.
Emergency Procurement Process
On Tuesday, Representative Jason Ortitay, Republican, recently lead a House hearing to, in fact, investigate the emergency procurement process. That would allow state agencies to bypass competitive public bidding to acquire what they say is having needed supplies or services.
Pennsylvania agencies made on average 135 emergency procurement requests each year between 2015 and 2019. This is information from a Spotlight PA review of state data that was obtained through a Right-to-Know request that is showing. However, in 2020, the requests have increased to 483, this is with about half explicitly for COVID-19 response. Moreover, only 15 were denied.
Those requests that with the estimated costs total more than $340 million last year. They are up from an annual average of $81 million.
“However, it is not a very transparent process,” Ortitay said.
Recently, separately, the Senate committees on Communications and Technology, as well as Health and Human Services, will, in fact, question the top health department officials as to why they are rushing another contact tracing program agreement after the state has fired the last company for a data breach.
Hiring Insight Global
Insight Global was by the Department of Health. They used the emergency procurement process to do that. This was to administer the contact tracing program and then conduct outreach to people. Those that are potentially, therefore, exposing to COVID-19. It was in an effort to prevent outbreaks. Moreover, the company’s initial $22.9 million awards have grown to $57.8 million by March. This is what state Treasury Department records show. In May, the health department fired the company this year. It was after a security lapse that exposed the personal information of about 72,000 people.