Constant procurement problems at MPT annoy state treasurer

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By Megan Poinski

Approval of two retroactive contracts for Maryland Public Television worth $162,152 were unanimously approved by the Board of Public Works on Wednesday, but the long-standing problems with procurement at the state agency rankled Treasurer Nancy Kopp.

The Board of Public Works: Treasurer Nancy Kopp, Gov. Martin O'Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot.

The Board of Public Works: Treasurer Nancy Kopp, Gov. Martin O'Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot.

“Over many years and many audits, there are remarkably persistent problems that keep coming up regarding the inability to do procurement properly,” said Kopp, who chaired the House Appropriations subcommittee that reviewed MPT before becoming state treasurer.

Kopp said that these kinds of issues had constantly been present at television operation.

“I don’t understand why after the years of problems and years of promises why there are still these problems,” she said.

The contracts in question on Wednesday had to do with Teledirect Communications, the company MPT hires to work the telephones during its pledge drives. The Board of Public Works approved a $71,982 contract for Teledirect’s services from September to December last year, and then a $90,200 contract for the company from January 2012 until this September.

MPT President and CEO Larry Unger said that he was not happy to have retroactive requests before the Board of Public Works, but it was the result of a unique situation for MPT. Unger said that the two positions that would be watching the contract and take action – the procurement officer and the development director – were both vacant when they contract should have come before the Board of Public Works for renewal.

“The contract came to its end and no one was there to do something about it,” Unger said.

Since that time, Unger said that MPT has hired people to fill the missing positions.

The new procurement officer, Carol Boucher, also appeared before the board on Wednesday. Boucher said that she’s already working hard to make sure that MPT procurement process goes by the book from now on.

“We’ve got solicitation on the street already for this call center,” Boucher said. “Proposals are due this month.”

Kopp appreciated the work being done currently to get the system back on track, but wondered why MPT had had similar problems in the past. She said they predated the current management team and urged Unger to take a look at past reports from the Office of Legislative Audits.

In a 2003 audit, MPT was found to have improperly awarded more than $3 million in no-bid contracts.

Three years later in 2006, auditors found about $2.2 million more in contracts awarded improperly.

Boucher said that her goal is to stop the problem from occurring again. She wants to develop a procurement manual for MPT, which will outline procedures.

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