Bill To Improve Accountability In State Contracting Wins Assembly Approval

CARSON CITY – A bill aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in state contracting passed the Assembly by a deadline today and will now be considered in the Senate.

Assembly Bill 240, sponsored by Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, passed on a 40-2 vote.

“In these times of economic and budgetary challenges, it is more critical than ever that we take every step possible to use taxpayer revenue effectively, save money, and improve state services,” Smith said. “Bringing state contracting out into the open for all to see and establishing a cooling off period for state employees are great steps forward for accomplishing those goals.”

AB240 changes the definition of “consultant” to make sure the state contracting process is transparent and state agencies are held accountable for the contracts they award. The legislation would help prevent state contractors from receiving contracts in excess of what can be done in-house by state employees.  The bill would also extend the cooling off period before a retired state employee could contract with the state to two years.

AB240 would also explicitly permit auditing of all contracts in which persons are employed by the state. The terms of employment contracts would be publicly available, ensuring more transparency, holding the state accountable, and preventing abuses. The bill requires school districts to report their use of consultants as well. Additionally, the legislation would require that anyone who does business with the state must go through the business portal provided by the Secretary of State’s office to obtain a Nevada business license.

The legislation was prompted by an audit of Nevada state agencies using current and former employees as contractors. It identified numerous potential concerns, including a case of one worker seeking payment for 25 hours of work in one 24-hour day.

The audit also found an example of a current state employee earning $62,590 as a contractor in fiscal years 2008 and 2009 while earning a state salary as well.

The audit identified 250 current and former employees providing services to the state. These employees were paid a total of $11.6 million during fiscal years 2008 and 2009, the years covered by the review.