Gov. Herbert says there are legitimate concerns over state contracts for COVID-19 response
May 7, 2020, 7:04 PM
UTAH STATE CAPITOL – Did hasty decisions about containing the coronavirus lead to state officials making bad deals? According to Governor Gary Herbert, most likely.
“Was every decision the ‘best’ decision? Probably not,” said Governor Herbert during a press conference on Thursday.
However, he said he stands by the overall collective decisions state officials made to secure things Uthans needed during the initial spread of the disease.
The state first came under fire for spending $800 thousand on 20 thousand doses of hydroxychloroquine, which President Trump touted as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
Since then, the Deseret News reports the state entered into a $5 million no-bid contract with NOMI Health for creating TestUtah.com and for one month’s worth of testing at five drive-through locations. Also, the state paid $2.75 million to Twenty for the Healthy Utah app and agreed to pay support fees of $300 thousand a month for one million active users.
Overall, the state has made over 300 purchases worth an estimated $90 million. However, Herbert said the purchases were made in good faith, and the people who approved them did so in the best interest of public health.
“Unfortunately, for us, there has not been any playbook to look and research to help guide us as we try to find our way through this challenging time,” said the governor.
Herbert noted, when the outbreak began, other states had serious problems securing things like test kits, personal protective equipment and respirators.
Normally, the state would formalize these contracts through a “request for proposal” process, and companies would make bids to earn the state’s business. However, with so many other states having problems locking down necessities, Herbert stated there wasn’t enough time to go through the regular channels.
“If we had to through an RFP, which is a traditional way to do it, and it takes you two months, that would be today. We’d finally be getting some results. It’d be too late,” he said.
What Herbert says will happen moving forward
Since then, Herbert says purchases have slowed down, and the Unified Command Center will use more normal means to finalize contracts. he says the state will fully cooperate with any inquiries into the contracts that were made.
Herbert says, “I think it’s human nature for all of us to want to, kind of, Monday-morning quarterback, as we say. I think we all want to take a look back, certainly with the benefit of hindsight, and say, ‘Well, we should have done this or that or the other thing.’”
Also, he says they will look at any claims of price gouging, fraud or people using state funds for personal use.
“I will use the full weight of my office as governor to make sure those people are held accountable,” Herbert says.