The IT Alliance for Public Sector (ITAPS), a division of ITI, has submitted written testimony for a hearing being held in Austin today urging the Texas legislature to revisit Senate Bill 20, which made sweeping reforms to state agency contracting and procurement law upon its passage in 2015. While we are supportive of greater accountability and transparency in the procurement process, we believe Senate Bill 20 has made the Texas procurement process more expensive, added unnecessary complexity, and handicapped the state’s ability to acquire innovative information technology (IT) capabilities and solutions. To assuage these concerns, ITAPS urges the legislature to form a working group of government and industry representatives to revisit Senate Bill 20.
Under Senate Bill 20, users of the state’s cooperative contract are now required to issue an additional request for pricing to vendors for all scopes of works and contracts valued over $50,000, and new requirements to solicit at least six vendors when a contract is valued is between $150,000 and $1,000,000. As a result of these artificially low thresholds, state agencies in Texas have experienced an increase in delays in the procurement process because of the additional work involved to source basic contracts.
The state’s agencies are also avoiding going through the Department of Information Resources’ (DIR) cooperative contract because of the complexity and extended timelines that have added new layers of red tape now associated with the procurement process under Senate Bill 20. Unwillingness to use the cooperative contract, despite the mandate, has led to agencies issuing their own request for proposals (RFPs) and an increase in the use of staff augmentation procurements. Using a master cooperative contract—which was established to ease the procurement process and ensure qualified vendors were available with pre-competed, pre-negotiated prices that offer Texas’ state agencies the ability to purchase at a lower price—has triggered onerous requirements for solicitation that have ultimately detracted from the total project savings that were intended to be a benefit.
Another adverse result of Senate Bill 20 is that state agencies feel they are no longer allowed to meet with vendors to develop solutions that meet their needs. An unwillingness to meet with vendors leads to vendor lock-in for agencies and prevents them from identifying state-of-the-art products and services that can expand options regarding new, innovative ways to deliver constituent services and address chronic challenges in areas like healthcare, education, and public safety. Experience has shown that states benefit the most when there is robust and open communication, spurring informed competition between solutions providers from the industries that best support them in their mission.
In order to find solutions to the problems posed by Senate Bill 20, ITAPS has created a Texas IT Acquisition Working Group to offer recommendations on how to improve the current system. The working group will also focus on other legislation and executive branch initiatives and activities affecting the use of information technologies and the companies that partner with the State of Texas and its’ localities to offer those goods and services.