Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, announced Wednesday his measure to bring accountability to the state’s no-bid contracting policies has been signed into law. Senate Bill 1271 will allow legislators to review the performance of firms awarded no-bid contracts prior to the contract’s renewal.
“This is a victory for transparency and good governance,” Wilk said in a prepared statement. “There were no shortage of government debacles highlighted by the pandemic, but the auto-renewal of the no-bid contract for the PerkinElmer COVID testing lab in Valencia was flat-out mind-boggling in light of the allegations levied against the lab. With the touch of the governor’s pen, the ‘automatic’ has been taken out the state’s contract renewal process, and much-needed oversight has been added.”
The Public Contract Code authorizes the procurement of contracts without competitive bidding in circumstances involving work of an emergency nature or of a limited scope. SB 1271 requires that no-bid contracts of $75 million or more entered on or after Jan. 1, 2023, be submitted to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, prior to renewal or extension of the contracts.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, state agencies have entered into nearly $12 billion in no-bid contracts for various pandemic-related goods or services. Many of them were hastily drafted, creating problems in interpreting and carrying them out, which then led to many unresolved issues and much concern among the affected parties, according to the statement released by Wilk’s office.
The need for new legislative oversight of no-bid contracts was made apparent by the late-2021 renewal of a contract with the PerkinElmer COVID testing lab in Valencia, the statement said. Despite major concerns raised by whistleblowers regarding mismanagement and processing inadequacies in the lab, no oversight hearing was held before the contract was auto-renewed in October 2021. In March of this year, the Gov. Gavin Newsom administration quietly canceled the contract.
“While no-bid state contracts should never become the norm, unless they are deemed necessary, at least now the Legislature will have the oversight tools needed to critique the state’s use of taxpayer dollars in a contract before it is renewed,” Wilk said.