Contract review committee puts state agencies on notice about retroactive approval of state contracts

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The co-chairman of the General Assembly’s government contract review committee put state agencies on notice that he doesn’t like having to approve contracts with a retroactive starting date.

Sen. Steven Meredith, R-Leitchfield, said on Tuesday he felt many of the reasons to approve contracts already entered in to by the agencies for such things as outside legal counsel or consultants, before presenting them to the committee, were not valid.

Sen. Meredith

“We have one today which deals with the recent fire at the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville. That I understand,” he said. “But many of those people asked to appear today is because of the retroactive request for approval.”

Meredith described the purpose of the committee: 

“Examine the stated need for the service, whether the service could or should be performed by state personnel, the amount and duration of the contract, and the appropriateness of any exchange of resource or responsibilities.”

While he said he understands there are instances where the dollar amount is insignificant, “It’s the process that concerns me, because we don’t know the real intent behind not bringing the contract to us on a timely basis. Ninety-nine percent of the reasons are quite valid, but that small percentage that may not be, if that falls through the cracks then we haven’t done our job.”

Meredith asked the agencies to spread the word that, “Unless it’s a very, very extreme circumstance, I just don’t like to deal with retroactive contracts. I don’t think it’s respectful to the staff, I don’t think it’s respectful to this committee, and I don’t think it’s respectful to the process.”

There was a total of 330 contract items that came before the committee, worth more than $79 million, and with every contract that was retroactive, representatives had to appear before the committee and explain why they were retroactive and what steps they would take to prevent it happening in the future.

Reasons ranged from vendors slow to return contracts or who signed them in the wrong spots to vendors being sold and having to redo the paperwork and even one case where a new agency fiscal officer didn’t realize a contract they wanted to renew had expired.

A few contracts had approval deferred until next month’s meeting so the agencies could answer questions from the lawmakers on the panel.