New directive good for state

All West Virginia state agencies should be required to follow a new purchasing directive all the time. If ensuring that happens requires an act of the Legislature, lawmakers should approve one.

More than 170 state agencies were notified last week the state Purchasing Division will have to review and approve statewide contracts for goods and services costing more than $250,000.

Part of the reason for the directive is the fiasco involving the Office of Technology’s $24 million purchase of about 1,000 computer network routers two years ago. The routers, intended for public facilities throughout the state, were vastly more expensive than necessary.

Though some state officials continue to defend the router buy, the Purchasing Division admitted the transaction was part of the reason for the new rule.

Advance notice will be required of plans to seek bids for statewide contracts over the quarter-million-dollar threshold. Information on bidding, amounts of money involved and reasons for purchases will be needed. Then, the Purchasing Division must approve before payments can be made to vendors.

Will the requirement prevent mistakes such as the router purchase? Perhaps not, in some situations. After all, the router deal was reviewed and approved by several people in the Office of Technology.

But reviews by the Purchasing Division certainly will help.

Again, every state agency should be required to follow the procedure – and that includes the two big buyers in state government, the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Resources. In the past, both agencies have been permitted to make some purchases without outside oversight.

That needs to end. There is no good reason any agency should need to bypass the Purchasing Division. Again, if ensuring that does not happen requires action by legislators, they should provide it.