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Get it together, man

Thursday, Aug 29, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Last fiscal year, the Quinn administration approved more than $135 million in no-bid emergency purchases. That’s a new record.

Some of it is understandable

Sometimes, however, an unexpected need arises. Recently, for example, the Illinois State Police and other agencies had to scramble to purchase goods and services to help implement the state’s new concealed weapons law. They also may have to declare an emergency if, for example, a tornado damages the roof of a prison.

But some of it clearly ain’t

The Illinois Department of Corrections, for example, recently had to make a no-bid emergency purchase of $15,000 for hot dog seasoning to be used at the Menard Correctional Center meat shop.

The reason: The prior contract for wiener spices had expired and a new contract wasn’t yet in place.

This is a laughable explanation

Matt Brown, the state’s chief procurement officer, acknowledged a lack of manpower in some agencies might be playing a role. But, he said ensuring that contracts don’t expire without a new contract in place is a matter of good planning.

Oh, c’mon.

A “matter of good planning” would be to make sure that basic state contracts don’t have to be let on an emergency, no-bid basis.


  1. - Demoralized - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 11:40 am:


    I invite you to come take a look at the state contracting process. I can’t stand when people think everything is just so easy without having an understanding of the situation. It’s easy to play armchair quarterback.

  2. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 11:41 am:

    Well, I guess ya get whatcha pay for, pension-wise that is.

  3. - A guy... - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 11:43 am:

    Rich, we’re talking hot dogs here dude. In what universe are you living in where that doesn’t constitute an emergency? Go get bids on safety equipment, etc. but condiments, there’s no time to lose. Ever had a hot dog without fixin’s? You know, besides the tent at the fair?

  4. - Name Withheld - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 11:51 am:

    It would be interesting to check the other constitutional officers to see if there is a pattern.

  5. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 11:52 am:

    Now is this a seasoning to be used on hot dogs or something to add to other foods to make them taste like hot dogs?

    Either way, that is clearly an emergency situation.

  6. - downstate commissioner - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 11:53 am:

    Not condiments, Mix, as in making their own hot dogs in the meat shop…

    Sometimes they can just extend the contract…unless the vendor doesn’t want to…wonder if they were paid yet????

  7. - horseracer - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 11:53 am:

    Talk to the rank and file who handle purchasing for state agencies. Illinois procurement law makes emergency purchasing the most practical option for a lot of state agencies. Nobody likes it.

  8. - Mason born - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 11:57 am:

    I’ve tasted those hot dogs. With the seasoning they were terrible they were probably better without.

  9. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 11:59 am:

    === I can’t stand when people think everything is just so easy without having an understanding of the situation.===

    I never said it was easy. I said the excuse was pathetic.

    Get it together. It’s your job.

  10. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 12:00 pm:

    So is Menard where they make the hotdogs sold at Felony Franks? Inmates making them, parolees serving them.

  11. - DanL60 - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 12:12 pm:

    ==Illinois State Police and other agencies had to scramble to purchase goods and services to help implement the state’s new concealed weapons law.==

    Yessir, they are implementing that law at supersonic speed.

    downstate commissioner probably has it right. No money, no hot dog spices.

  12. - humm - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 12:29 pm:

    ==It would be interesting to check the other constitutional officers to see if there is a pattern. ==

    Other constitutional officers aren’t subject to the Procurement Code.

  13. - Ucster - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 12:34 pm:

    CMS takes care of most procurement contracts. Blame them.

  14. - Stuff happens - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 12:54 pm:

    ‘A “matter of good planning” would be to make sure that basic state contracts don’t have to be let on an emergency, no-bid basis.’

    Thank you! Nothing like having your software licenses expire for everyone in your organization because purchasing has been sitting on it for six months.

  15. - Rufus - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 1:01 pm:

    The no-bid contact with Maximus is ridiculous. $77 million to verify Medicaid claims… In house estimates were around a million, but noooo, we had to go with a ‘professional’ firm, who happened to contribute a fair amount of money to you know who.

  16. - Small Town Liberal - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 1:02 pm:

    Rich, it seems to me that Brown is agreeing with you.

    I’m sure there are some that can be pinned on poor planning, but the fact is that the procurement law has changed dramatically since Rod’s departure. Combine that with a lack of resources and you’re going to see some problems.

  17. - dave - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 1:09 pm:

    **CMS takes care of most procurement contracts. Blame them.**

    Last I checked, CMS reported to the Governor.

  18. - Anon. - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 1:20 pm:

    ==Thank you! Nothing like having your software licenses expire for everyone in your organization because purchasing has been sitting on it for six months.==

    Amen! Coming to work in the morning and finding the online subscription you need to do your work has expired stops being funny after the third or fourth time. And I second Mr. Miller’s response to Demoralized — if it’s your job, do it. If it takes 6 months to get a contract approved, then start 7 months before the old one expires.

  19. - Cod - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 1:22 pm:

    Sorry, just what is a hot dog spice? Up here in Chicago, us inmates put ketchup, mustard or pickles on our wieners, not spices.

  20. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 1:34 pm:

    ===Up here in Chicago, us inmates put ketchup===

    No self-respecting Chicagoan puts ketchup on a hotdog.

    I believe the spices include paprika, marjoram, onion and garlic powder, etc. And they go in the dog, not on the dog.

  21. - Dirty Red - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 1:39 pm:

    “Hot dog spices?” Is that what the kids are calling it these days?

  22. - Cod - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 2:03 pm:

    47th Ward - @ 1:34 pm:

    Prison inmates make hot dogs?? That is a scary thought. I am definitely buying ribs for the LD BBQ.

    I should have said Chicao-LAND. Suburbanites put all three condiments on.

  23. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 2:10 pm:

    ===Suburbanites put all three condiments on===

    Ribs are a good call Cod. I don’t know if the Menard dogs are sold outside of the prison or if they are used for prison meals only. But if they are letting inmates learn new skills, Vienna and other Chicago area producers are always looking for trained people as potential employees.

    “All three condiments?” The proper condiments for a Chicago dog are: mustard, relish, onion, pickle spear, sport peppers, a tomato slice and a dash of celery salt. I can do without the tomato, but there are some places that won’t serve you if you ask for ketchup on one. Apparently ketchup lovers are not a protected class so it’s OK to discriminate against them.

  24. - Give Me A Break - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 2:26 pm:

    This is a prime expample of smaller gvt. Next time you hear someone say “cut, cut, cut, get rid of those paperpushers and bureaucrats”, you should remember, those paperpushers are people like procurment staff and auditors who have to review and sign off on purchases.

    Sooner or later, maybe someone will figure out that when you slash and burn those waste of tax dollars, paperpushing bureaucrats, you might not like the results. For example, in 1997 when DHS was created they had over 20,000 staff. Today their headcount is around 12,000. Think some of them might have been paperpushers? But go ahead General Assembly, keep cutting those “adm. lines” for agencies, you will get more of this.

  25. - Joan P. - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 2:59 pm:

    @47th Ward -

    I am a self-respecting Chicagoan and I do so put ketchup on my hot dogs! Also raw onions.

  26. - lincolnlover - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 3:59 pm:

    Part of the problem is that the procurement policy is so bureaucratic that it takes 2 to 3 months to get a request for something approved by everyone who has to approve it. After the bid is let, then you have to go through the entire approval process again! So what happens if you run out of weinies during the process of going out for bid? One option would be to do without, but, the most obvious one is to get an emergency purchase approved.
    No where in the debate am I hearing that the procurement process ITSELF needs to be reviewed for streamlining and efficiency.

  27. - A guy... - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 4:21 pm:

    Joan P, turn in any piece of ID that shows you’re from the metro-Chicago area. You may eat future hot dogs in Wisconsin, Iowa or Indiana, but alas…not here.

  28. - Who's Fooling Who? - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 5:01 pm:

    Ed Bedore retired from Chicago having spent his life working for a DALEY. Now he is belittling the administration…

    This isn’t hard to figure out.

    It’s a spin on problems that have existed since Mike Madigan ‘fixed’ procurement… Who by the way appointed Ed to the Policy Board.

  29. - woodchuck - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 5:07 pm:

    I may be wrong but I think Matt’s agency is separate from CMS and, based on his response, would seem to hint that perhaps some of executive branch agencies should be planning better. Brown is a good guy, have worked with him in the past and he’s not into “hack” responses. CMS should own this embarassment.

  30. - Nitro - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 6:37 pm:

    The state procurement process along with very late payments make purchasing a nightmare. Because of those two factors all involved in state procurement know about the “procurement premium” which easily totals into the millions annually. Vendors, or at least those who will still do business with the state, build in additional costs to make up for the bureaucratic disaster procurement has become as well as to help reimburse for late payments. A few are happy with the percent and a half or whatever the state pays for late payments but not very many. Want to save millions of tax dollars, reform the procurement system.

  31. - Budget Watcher - Thursday, Aug 29, 13 @ 7:17 pm:

    Not necessarily an excuse, but there are 20,000 fewer state employees than 10 years ago, which is an approximate 30% reduction in force. Many of the departed had a great deal of institutional knowledge and quite a few, although certainly not all, were committed career employees. So, I’m not at all surprised that we find instances of poor performance in Illinois agencies. As Matt Brown points out, the brain drain has real consequences, and it exposes agencies to potential abuses. Unfortunately there hasn’t been any commitment to replenishing the talent pool for a long long time.

  32. - Barney Fife - Friday, Aug 30, 13 @ 9:01 am:

    I would agree with “General Incompetence” when it cones to the Agency, “IDOC”.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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