- Fiscal Policy
What is a sole-source contract?
Government contracts are usually open to bid. Typically, a government entity will release a notice about a future project and companies will respond with competitive bids to provide the service. The competition keeps costs low. In some instances there is no competitive process, and a company is simply selected. This is known as a “sole-source contract.”
Sole-source contracts sound like corruption. Are they?
Not necessarily. Sole-source contracts may be necessary in some circumstances. However, they can be wasteful when misused. Beyond that, sole-source contracts can create conditions that might make corruption more likely. Therefore, measures need to be taken to ensure the integrity of the transactions.
How are sole-source contracts approved?
Sole-source contracts for supplies, services, and professional services above $50,000 are approved by the Chief Procurement Officer in the Division of General Services. Contracts less than $50,000 are approved by the commissioner of the requesting department. Sole-source contracts for construction are approved by the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Furthermore, the government entity seeking a sole-source contract with a vendor must provide evidence that justifies the granting of a sole-source contract.
Why are you posting these contracts on your website?
One of the ways to ensure integrity of the process is to make these kinds of contracts more accessible and transparent. All of these contracts are public record, but a citizen should not have to file a formal request in order to obtain this information. It should be made available through passive disclosure and accessible enough so the public can weigh in.
I see you have information, but are the actual contracts available?
Contracts can be quite lengthy. One of the barriers to transparency is that the government entities often don’t put the actual contracts in an electronic format. They often only have paper copies, and will charge for duplication. While it may be reasonable to charge for paper copies, there is no reason why all contracts with government should not be made available online in electronic (preferably structured) format.
Bottom line: We only asked for certain pieces of information about sole-source contracts, because we don’t have the resources to pay for the copying costs. The good news is, any citizen can file a public records request to obtain a copy of the contracts listed in the database. If you find an item that interests you, contact the government entity that holds the contract, and ask for a copy. If you do make a request and get a contract back, help make the database better by sending us the results of your public records request.
We sought information on sole-source contracts from three kinds of government entities: schools, local government and state government. The database is divided into two parts. One part contains all the sole-source contracts with the State of Alaska that we could find. The other contains sole-source contracts with school districts and local government. If you have suggestions on how this database can be improved, email the Open Government Initiative at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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