This photo shows the Alaska State Capitol. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

This photo shows the Alaska State Capitol. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Alaska may have illegally directed $5M consulting contract

Former Alaska state employees said they believe a government consulting contract was illegal.

Associated Press

ANCHORAGE — Former Alaska state employees said they believe a $5 million government consulting contract was illegal as a result of narrow terms directing the award to a single company.

Three former officials alleged the Alaska Department of Administration steered an efficiency planning and technology contract to a specific bidder last year, The Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday.

Barry Jackson, contracting and facilities manager of the Division of General Services until 1999, spoke to the the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday. Former Assistant Attorneys General Jim Baldwin and Ross Kopperud also met with the committee, which oversees state procurement.

The Department of Administration declined an invitation to participate in the hearing, but said in a statement that Jackson is drawing “inaccurate conclusions.”

The contract under review was awarded by the administration department to Alvarez & Marsal, an international firm providing various services.

[Opinion: There have been questions and misinformation about pandemic-related contract]

The department sought advice concerning a new Alaska Administrative Productivity and Excellence program, which consolidates identical services across state agencies to reduce costs.

The department issued a request for proposals with stipulations requiring bidding companies to be members of a National Governors Association program or have 25 years of experience with information technology and expertise in nine fields.

State law says proposal requests “may not be unduly restrictive.”

A timeline compiled by Jackson indicated only two firms responded to the proposal request by the October 2019 deadline, while two other companies were refused application extensions.

The department disqualified one of the two finalists for failing to list expertise in legal services, one of the nine requested fields, leaving Alvarez & Marsal as the contract recipient.

Jackson obtained a draft document indicating Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka personally changed the request to require 25 years of experience, which Jackson said was an extraordinarily high hurdle.

“All the evidence that I’ve seen indicates a set of circumstances and restraints on bidding that yielded a single contractor who had a perfect ability to meet those restraints, no matter how outlandish they were,” Jackson said.

Baldwin, one of the former assistant attorneys general, said the change did not appear to be appropriate.

“It leads one to suspect there was an intent to restrict the number of firms that could qualify to make an offer,” Baldwin said.

Tshibaka and administration department officials said Jackson’s testimony was a “mischaracterization” of the state’s procurement process.

“The department’s dedicated procurement officers follow long-established contracting protocols specifically designed to protect the interests of the state and the public,” the department statement said.

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