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Adventures in procurement

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015

* Brian Mackey interviews former Statehouse reporter Kurt Erickson

Even though much of Illinois government is operating without a budget, the state is still looking to spend money. Right now, on Illinois’ procurement website, there are dozens of notices. Reporter Kurt Erickson returns to State of the State for a procurement primer. […]

ERICKSON: “A couple of years ago, I just made it a point to start looking at all the different state websites, and I made a list of all these things I wanted to check out. And at the time, the state was putting a lot more things online, whether it’s meeting notices or the General Assembly. I came in at a time when that was all on paper. So when they started putting it up online, I just tried to make it sort of like a cop walks a beat. I’d go to each website and check in and see what was going on. The procurement website started to yield a lot of stories that nobody else was doing. So it made me look like I was getting big scoops when I was just reporting on something that was already out there.”

ERICKSON: “I’ve also learned a lot in checking out the procurement code. The state Department of Corrections makes hot dogs for all the inmates. And they ran out of hot dog spice, or wiener spice, as I called it. And they had to go out and try to find some in an emergency purchase. And in their explanation of why they had to go around the bidding process, they said if the hot dogs don’t taste right, the inmates could think they’re being poisoned, and it could cause a riot. And I thought that was really interesting that, here you’ve got this hot dog spices that are avoiding a potential riot. I don’t know if it would really get that bad, but that’s how they explained it.” […]

MACKEY: “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen procured? Or that the state had to put out a bid for?”

ERICKSON: “The most interesting one I saw — crazy, I don’t know — but the one that caught my eye was the flavored and colored condoms that the Department of Public Health was trying to purchase. And again, I learn things from these (notices): The reason they were trying to have colored and flavored condoms was because maybe it would promote more usage of this to combat STDs. In the end … after we did stories about it, they’re now just bidding out plain, regular old condoms.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Anon221 - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 9:39 am:

    In case readers are interested in viewing the site:

    Check out the listing for the JRTC.

  2. - Thinking - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 9:40 am:

    Kurt Erickson will be missed.

    Hopefully someone will take up his banner and keep on eye on the state’s procurements. There have been a lot of changes in the procurement office in last year, a new chairperson of the policy procurement board, a new executive director of the PPB, new board members of the ethics commission were appointed by Rauner who chose the chief procurement officers. The last chief procurement officer got dumped by the new ethics commissioners and they replaced with a CMS attorney. Lots of moving pieces. Someone like Erickson needs to keep an eye on and help ensure there is no backsliding.

  3. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 10:08 am:

    People have to buy their own flavored and colored assortments now that the state is only providing “plain”?

    Aw shucks.

  4. - How Ironic - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 10:22 am:

    @ Anon,

    I’d rather the state pay $.10/flavored condom extra if people are more prone to use them.

    Especially since the cost of treating HIV for a medicade patient can vary between $77,000-140,000 PER YEAR PER PATIENT.

    So do the math. Pay a few cents (literally) more now…or stick to your puritan ideals and pay hundreds of thousands more later.

    What makes more sense again?

  5. - A Jack - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 10:36 am:

    One of the more interesting things I saw procured was a calf for a ward’s 4-H project. Not saying there is anything wrong with that as it probably helped the ward to be more nurturing and may have helped them find a later job in agriculture.

    Really, if flavored condoms reduces the amount of future wards of the state, then why not?

  6. - nadia - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 11:33 am:

    Another problem could have arisen; some folks would probably have hoarded the flavored ones. They would limit the use of flavored ones to partners who were “flavor worthy”. (Credit to Elaine Benes)

  7. - Anon - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 11:35 am:

    I work at a prison. Even with “hot dog spices”, what they attempt to pass off as “wieners” could cause a riot! They’re one of the worst thing served. The inmates call them “condom dogs”. Lesson here, don’t get locked up!

  8. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 2:08 pm:

    @ How Ironic,

    What makes more sense is not having unprotected sex when the state is offering FREE contraceptives.

  9. - sal-says - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 3:42 pm:

    Procurement / condoms.

    Clever play on words.

  10. - How Ironic - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 4:08 pm:


    So in other words, take what the state gives you even if there are more attractive options available?

    If the other condoms are show to be more attractive, and have a higher use rate then how fiscally stupid is it to only offer those that people are less likely to use?

    Again, you’d rather the state save (literally) $.10 to spend a few hundred thousand down the road.

    Please tell me so more ‘fiscally responsible’ ideas you might have.

  11. - Anon - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 4:53 pm:

    Procurement in Illinois is broken. The State pays inflated costs and struggles in capturing best value. Focus is all on dotting i’s and crossing t’s. An example was the medical services procurement that wound up costing taxpayers much more due to administrative decisions. The legislature had to step in. Not only what is being purchased needs to be examined, but also how.

  12. - RNUG - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 6:29 pm:

    Nobody has mentioned the other problem in procurement … lack of timely payment.

    The small business, which might be able to deliver the goods more cheaply, is priced out of the market because they can’t afford to wait a year to get paid. They also can’t afford to / don’t have the expertise to comply with all the bid requirements in terms of the required forms for everything under the sun.

    All of the above contributes to only having the big boys and insiders bid … and they aren’t shy about padding their bids because of their (partial) monopoly status and ability to wait for payment.

  13. - Really? - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 12:03 am:

    This is as far as he digs? You want to see just how huge a waste of time this is? Go look at the PPB’s meeting minutes. Or better yet, go to a meeting.

    You will find just how sad the entire process is. Not unethical, just inept. Not even Jay Stewart could keep a lid on Ed.

  14. - D J Wareham - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 12:08 am:

    I use to work for IDOC and I can tell ya the dogs tasted bad spice or no spice

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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