According to the Pennsylvania Auditor General the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board did not violate any laws when it awarded a training contract last month but it did exercise poor judgment. The $173,820 contract was awarded to Solutions 21, which is owned by the husband of a PLCB Regional Director. Wagner says, “The PLCB should have anticipated the reasonable public questioning that would result over a potential conflict of interest, regardless of whether that conflict was an actual conflict or the appearance of a conflict." The contract originally came under scrutinity because many felt the training was not needed. It later came out that the contract winner had ties to the PLCB. Investigators found, “no evidence that the Western Regional Director used the authority of her employment or confidential information to assist her husband's business in obtaining the contract.”
Wagner says there were other red flags that should have caused the board to reject and rebid the contract. He says unsuccessful bidder Alutiiq Business Services LLC was asked to modify its proposal when it was learned that a different PLCB employee was included by name in the bid. Wagner also points out that the three bids ultimately considered ranged in cost from $173,820 to $1.2 million. Wagner says when you see something like that you have to wonder if the bid specification were well written. He says the PLCB even asked Solutions 21 if it could actually perform the work expected. The Auditor General says the RFP should have been rebid at the time but now that it has been awarded in a legal manner it should be allowed to proceed. He says the contract is at least half complete and canceling it now would wind up costing the state more and could expose it to legal action. Wagner went on to say the PLCB might not have needed the contract at all. The Board has full-time trainers on staff. He thinks they may have been able to do the job. He says in these tough economic times every dollar needs to be spent wisely. Wagner launched the examination at the request of the PLCB and says the board was very cooperative in the process.
Wagner made several recommendations including the suggestion that the PLCB refine its procurement handbook to more vigorously avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest. He also suggests he board conduct a pre-proposal conference for every request for proposals issued, or formally document why one is not necessary to make sure there is no confusion. He also recommends that the PLCB record more detailed minutes from all meetings related to contract evaluations.