Even with special powers, you have to get the contract right

Staff members with the California prison health care receiver ignored state contract rules and court edicts as they awarded more than $28 million in technology deals in 2007 and 2008, the state auditor said Thursday.

Read the rest here. Short story is that the contracting process violated many of California’s technical rules governing contracting. While receiver is not bound by state law in the same way as state agencies, this is still a big red flag. The article I’d like to see would look at those contracts and the process flaws and see if they caused bad deals for the taxpayers. CA has many unwieldy contracting rules that focus on process rather than outcomes, so this may have been the receiver’s staff just getting the job done more rationally. But if they did not replace those rules with other forms of real accountability, chances of a bad contract go up. Contracting is a great way for the government to purchases services it cannot provide and/or save money. But transparency and accountability for outcomes are paramount to achieve those outcomes.