The Iowa Senate has voted unanimously to punish violations of the state’s competitive bidding laws, after complaints over how for-profit companies won the contracts for privatizing the state’s Medicaid program. Interested parties reportedly communicated with state employees while their bids were under consideration, what should have been a blackout period to maintain objectivity. Des Moines Democrat Janet Peterson says there should be consequences when people don’t follow the blackout rule.
“We have blackout periods during procurement periods for a reason and that's to make sure that people are confident they don't have to pay to play,” she said.
Under the bill, the Department of Administrative Services will devise sanctions, including fines, suspension, or disqualification for state bids in the future. Peterson says the blackout rule ensures clean government.
“So we should have consequences in place when people don't comply with the blackout rule,” she said. “So this bill relates to procedures for the Department of Human Services regarding sanctions.”
In an e-mail, a spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad sais the governor did not comment specifically on the bill. He said the governor is “generally supportive of any effort that will ensure procurement laws protect taxpayers and taxpayer dollars."
The spokesman said no one in the governor's office played any role in the bidding process regarding Medicaid privatization contracts.
After the Medicaid contracts were awarded, three companies sued claiming the process was biased, and one winning bidder was later disqualified.