Editorial: Avoiding the bidding process is not an emergency

There is a difference between an obstacle and an emergency.

An obstacle is something in the way. It’s a pothole. A detour sign. An obstacle in the way of a race.

An emergency is a situation where everyone is on deck. A house on fire. A train derailment. A flood.

Notice the difference in gravity.

It’s probably no surprise. Most people can easily identify the gap. But most people are not part of the state government.

Take the lottery balls. You know, the little white spheres with numbers bouncing around in a hopper for the fair and unbiased determination of game winners in live TV cartoons.

Is there a situation where someone would consider buying lottery balls a true state emergency? It’s unlikely.

Yet the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue did, spending $80 a ball to purchase 30 sets of balls without bidding, according to a Pennlive.com article. OK, of course, these are special balls that match the precise specifications of the lottery. But is it really an emergency?

According to the state bidding process, yes, it is. Should it though?

R-Allegheny County Rep. Jason Ortitay doesn’t think so. He’s chairman of a House subcommittee looking at how untendered contracts are blurring in emergency purchases. A bill from this committee was recently passed in the House and sent to the Senate. If passed, it would limit emergency purchases to things related to real emergencies.

If only one company is supplying the item in question, it would seem like an easy bidding process. But maybe there could be sellers who were not known. New businesses are opening up. New product lines could be introduced into existing businesses.

And the bidding process still allows the government to evaluate bids beyond the lowest price. Pennsylvania goes for the highest bid, not the lowest, so reliability and quality can always be a factor.

There’s no reason the state can’t plan ahead for a purchase like lottery balls – or anything else that’s a convenience disguised as a necessity. Poor planning and laziness are obstacles, not emergencies.

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