Competitive Bidding Process Skirted by Benton Commission

Benton County circumvented the competitive bidding process when it entered into a $3.7 million, five-year contract for ambulance service with the Jackson-Madison County General Hospital District, state auditors found in a review of the county’s finances.

The county commission first rejected a lower bid before negotiating the deal with the hospital district, which included services beyond the scope of the original solicitation, auditors found. But the documentation from those 2009 discussions was so spotty it was unclear why.

“Purchases should be made from the vendor with the lowest price that meets bid specifications unless adequate documentation is on file supporting the decision to reject the lowest bid,” state comptroller’s office auditors wrote. County officials did not respond formally in the report, but “officials provided various reasons why the bids were rejected,” the audit says.

Auditors also criticized the parks and fair board, which entered into a lease agreement without county commission approval. The audit of fiscal year 2010 finances also found that the county was unable to produce financial statements in line with generally accepted accounting procedures and that spending exceeded appropriations by as much as $9,000 in a handful of budget categories.

TNReport has been keeping up with audits from the state comptroller’s office, including these recently posted reports:

County Not Tracking Road Material Use: Audit (Jan. 21)

Financial Disclosure Info Lacking on State Board of Education Members (Jan. 26)

Red Ink Runneth in Crossville (Jan. 28)

Moore County Officials Spent More Than They Had (Jan. 31)

Readers can peruse the original audit reports, linked from TNReport blog items and posted at the state comptroller’s website.