July 20, 2024

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Osage County commissioners ignore questions about no-bid contract

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Osage County Commissioners Fred Diver, Gaylord Anderson, and Ken Kuykendall have refused to answer questions about a no-bid contract to administer CARES Act funding on behalf of the county.

On July 6, 2020, the commission approved a no-bid contract with Western Consultants — doing business as “Governmental Assistance Services” — to administer and distribute the roughly $3.2 million in CARES aid received by the county.  No explanation was provided as to why county officials needed to spend money on a consultant to process CARES Act applications.

The contract provides that “Administration services will be billed at 5% of all items submitted on Reconciliation Forms at the intervals provided by the Office of Recovery.”

It is unclear from the contract, however, where the commission ends. If it is capped at the number of applications or approved once CARES Funding runs out, or if there is a 5% commission on every application.

If the former, then GAS stands to gross $160,000; if the latter, the commission is essentially unlimited.

Osage County Clerk Rhonda Beets confirmed that the contract was not put out for bid.

Former state legislator and Osage County resident Shari Weber said the hiring of the firm was “irresponsible.”

“This is a course of action by our county commission that I believe to be blatantly irresponsible in terms of not vetting an administrative entity for the CARES Act monies, (in order to) to meet all the tracking requirements (and) by eliminating the bid process initially,” she said.

On August 28, 2020, Kansas Policy Institute (which owns the Sentinel) CEO Dave Trabert sent a list of questions to each commissioner, asking:

  1. Why was this contract not put out for bid?
  2. Does the county have a written policy that determines when a purchase of goods or services should be put out for bid?
  3. How frequently does the county NOT put out bids for large expenditures?
  4. Why did you choose to hire someone to perform this function instead of having county employees do it?
  5. The contract with Western Consultants says they will be paid “ 5% of all items submitted on Reconciliation Forms.”  (a) What is the total amount of 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to be distributed for which Western Consultants will receive a 5% commission?  (b) If the total of all items submitted on Reconciliation Forms exceeds the amount of CARES funds available for distribution, will Western Consultants be paid a 5% commission on the total submitted, or is their compensation capped at 5% of the amount available to be distributed?  (c) Who will decide how much each CARES applicant receives?

The commission was given until noon September 1, 2020 to respond. As of publication, no responses have been received.

Weber said on Friday, that — as the Osage County CARES budget shows — the money was more or less split up among the various county departments and schools as what amounts to a “slush fund” to be used for things the departments want, but may not necessarily need.

Transparency Issues

It’s another case where transparency involving COVID is sorely lacking.

In late July, 2020, the Sentinel reported that decisions involving which businesses were deemed “essential” were being undertaken by a faceless “KEFF (Kansas Essential Functions Framework) Team” and an equally faceless bureaucrat named “Bill.”

One business wrote to the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, detailing how they only needed one employee to work in the warehouse to potentially save the jobs of 100 employees.

The business, which ships vinyl records and cleaning supplies around the country sent all but two employees to work from home. Those two worked in a 30,000 square-foot warehouse.

The business said they could get by with just one, if necessary.

“Obviously, our business would still be considerably impacted,” they wrote. “But allowing just one warehouse worker to work in complete isolation would allow us to continue to operate.”

Bill denied the request.

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