Corruption?: Contract process should be investigated

The constantly advancing technology with which we live is an open invitation to waste and even corruption in government.

Many people have an idea of how much a police cruiser should cost, for example, and whether their town has paid too much for one. Likewise, most people have at least some idea of what needs to be done to repave a road and whether the state has paid too much to do that.

But the hardware, software and expertise to install a new accounting system for a state agency? Who can say?

That is why Ohio state Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, is correct in his reaction to a new report that concludes the state agency’s contracting process for information technology threatens the “fair, open, and honest market place” for businesses.

State Inspector General Randall Meyer recommended the Department of Administrative Services do more to ensure competitive bidding is used. When that is not possible, documentation of the reasons why should be more complete than it is now, Meyer suggested.

But Cera, also a member of the state Controlling Board, also insists Meyer’s report shows some officials “have misused the system and taxpayer dollars to benefit political insiders and friends. This is just the latest report of wrongdoing in what is quickly becoming a pattern of corrupt activity.”

No-bid contracts, not terribly difficult to engineer by specifying mixes of products and services only one company can supply, are one way of helping cronies. They can result in intentional waste of millions of dollars.

Sometimes, the money flows both ways. Just a couple of weeks ago, Meyer caught a state technology administrator who solicited a $37,000 fee from a company that has received millions of dollars in state contracts.

Cera is right. Merely recommending more open, honest methods of buying technology is not enough. It is something like suggesting to a fox that he stay away from the chicken coop.

Investigation of technology contracting should continue. If wrongdoing is found, those responsible should be prosecuted. And new, enforced rules — not suggestions — should be put in place to safeguard Ohio taxpayers.