Well, House Bill 2663 from this past legislative session sure raised significant procurement issues for all of us in school procurement. The bill amends A.R.S. 15-213, the enabling statute for our school district procurement rules.
The bill, as signed by the Governor, instructs the State Board of Education (SBE) to adopt rules for school district procurement of materials, services, and construction that ensure maximum competition. The bill also reminds us that persons who contract or purchase in violation of adopted rules can be personally liable for the recovery of public monies paid plus 20%, legal interest from the date of payment and all costs and damages from the violation. The bill reiterates a current statute that classifies intentional or knowing violations to avoid the rules as a Class 4 felony. The new law emphasizes that persons who prepare procurement specifications are prohibited from receiving any direct or indirect benefit from using the specifications. There is nothing new in any of the requirements above but is simply more clearly spelled out now in A.R.S. 15-213.
While some of the directives may seem harsh and prescriptive, I contend that Districts are already in substantial compliance with many of these requirements. The newly detailed procurement procedures in HB 2663 will allow districts to increase the effectiveness, efficiency, and integrity of their procurement practices to the benefit of everyone.
We are not quite sure right now how these statutes will be implemented into our school district procurement rules. Most of the other procurement changes in the statute are redundant to previous requirements in other statutes so there is not much concern with those changes. However, well thought out and meaningful discussion will take place prior to approval of any rule changes by the State Board of Education.
Arizona School Districts have a real opportunity to become an innovative model for public procurement practices. It is up to us to an active role in revising our procurement rules that encourage integrity in everything we buy.
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Bill is a certified Arizona Community College Instructor that regularly teaches classes and workshops in public procurement. He served on the AASBO procurement committee that made revisions to our current School District Procurement Rules. Throughout his career, Bill has proven himself to be a leader and advocate for all things public procurement in Arizona. Bill provides procurement assistance to Valley School Members and other public entities within the State of Arizona on a daily basis. He may be reached at [email protected].