Corporation Commissioners to consider support of State Auditor for competitive bidding



The Oklahoma Corporation Commission isn’t finished with its questions how a recent critical report by the State Auditor might affect the agency’s contracts with certain vendors, contracts given without competitive bidding.

When commissioners meet Tuesday, they intend to delve deeper into the matter of the allegations made by State Auditor Cindy Byrd against the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. She concluded OMES skirted state competitive bidding requirements.

Commissioner Bob Anthony raised the matter last week in an attempt to learn what contracts the Commission might have issued without competitive bidding. He repeated his interest Monday in a released statement.

“It is clear from last Thursday’s discussion that, despite the State Auditor’s strong statements about noncompliance with state statutes, some at this agency believe nothing needs to change until OMES changes its processes.  Such an attitude reflects continued acceptance of OMES’s controversial use of the statutes in question, and given the recent revelations by the State Auditor, I believe that represents a compliance risk to this agency.”

OCC Director of Administration Brandy Wreath responded last week by explaining that with one exception, OMES moved OCC’s existing long-term vendors from competitively bid contracts to its Rolling Solicitation vendor list.

“OCC was not consulted nor otherwise involved in establishing the Rolling Request for Proposal identified as non-compliant in the audit of federal expenditures,” added Wreath.

But it led to more questions and conclusions by Commissioners Anthony and Todd Hiett, the only commissioners present for last Thursday’s public meeting. Anthony asked for the topic to be explored even further at Tuesday’s public meeting.

As the agenda item pointed out, Commissioner Hiett also had concerns about the lack of competitive bidding.

“You indicated, Commissioner Anthony indicated, I’ll go ahead and indicate myself, we agree with the Auditor in her findings.”

Hiett questioned Wreath about his conclusions of the Audit findings and the Auditor’s conclusion that state contracts are not being awarded to the lowest and best value as required by state law.

“Am I understanding you correctly,” he asked of Wreath, “that (the SAI’s) findings are asking OMES to make changes, but until OMES makes those changes—sound like all three of us think they should, but that’s up to them—until they make those changes, we have to operate within the parameters that OMES currently has?”

When commissioners meet Tuesday, they might vote on a proposed stance in support of the State Auditor and Inspector who wants OMES to return to competitive bidding.

The agenda item proposed, “Effective immediately, the OCC shall adopt the SAI position regarding Statewide Contracting pilot programs known as Rolling Request for Proposal (RFP) or Rolling Solicitations.”

The item said the stance, if adopted at Tuesday’s meeting, was designed to “ensure hiring, contracting and purchasing are “meeting the competitive bidding requirements” required by state law and avoiding the “circumvention of financial safeguards.”

The Auditor’s investigation led Byrd to conclude Oklahoma was becoming a “no-bid state” and that $30 million and maybe up to $100 million in questionable costs were passed through OMES. She was especially critical of the conflict-of interest contracts awarded by Shelley Zumwalt when she was director of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. Contracts were approved by Zumwalt with a software company where her husband was employed as one of its executives.

The revelation prompted Attorney General Gentner Drummond to call for Zumwalt’s resignation as Secretary of Tourism. In a subsequent step, Gov. Kevin Stitt withdrew Zumwalt’s nomination to the Senate. Zunwalt said publicly she would not resign as Tourism Secretary.