Government procurement transparency bill amended, advanced

Lawmakers advanced a bill from general file Jan. 23 that would adopt the Transparency in Procurement Act.

As introduced by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, LB371 would require state agencies to report to the Legislature the total number and dollar value of contracts for goods and services.

A Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment, adopted 30-0, limits the bill’s provisions to contracts awarded by the state Department of Administrative Services (DAS) on or after July 1, 2013.

Mello offered an amendment, adopted 31-0, which pushed back that date to July 1, 2014.

Mello said current law does not require sufficient transparency regarding how tax dollars are spent on state contracts, which account for approximately $2 billion of state spending.

“[This] is one area where I feel that transparency still may be lacking,” he said.

As amended, LB371 would require DAS to create an annual report that would include the total number and value of contracts awarded by the department. The report also would differentiate between contracts awarded within the state and to foreign contractors and include the number of contracts for which a preference was given.

The report would be submitted to the governor and the Legislature annually, beginning Sept. 1, 2015. The report would not include information regarding subcontractors or suppliers.

Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery supported the bill, saying the committee amendment’s removal of references to subcontractors and suppliers was an attempt to reduce the cost to DAS of complying with LB371.

“These are significant changes that [will] have a significant impact on the fiscal note,” Avery said.

Lawmakers voted 31-0 to advance the bill to select file.

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