Editor's note: This is the first of a multipart series on how the Government of Guam bought items and services using shortened procurement processes during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The government of Guam spent nearly $8 million on sole-source procurement in 2020.

Local law allows for departments and agencies to purchase supplies and services without a competitive bid process, as long as a high-level manager certifies in writing "there is only one source for the required supply, service or construction item."

More than half of the money spent on sole-source procurement was used for information technology or telecommunications purposes, according to a committee hearing report recently filed by the Guam Legislature.

Sole-source procurement in 2020 was paid using federal and local funds.

The document was published following a June hearing convened by Sen. Sabina Perez, who has oversight of GovGuam procurement, including the General Services Agency – the government entity that handles purchasing and contracts for most of the local executive branch. The agency provided information to Perez's committee for contracts and purchases made last calendar year, which was made public via its report.

Perez's committee found "the procurement record shows an inconsistency in documents provided by agencies with some incomplete records ... which will be rectified by GSA." It recommended that procedures be revamped, including allowing for the use of electronic signatures during the sole source procurement process.

"More transparency and accountability are needed, regarding procurement in general. With sole-source and emergency procurement being used for an 'easy' or 'quicker' way, those methods of source selection don't allow for the best value," the committee wrote in its report.

Perez has introduced legislation proposing reforms to the sole-source method.

Bill 182-36, co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of senators, argues the process "may not be understood and often misused." If passed as introduced, sole-source contracts will be capped at a maximum of five years.

The measure additionally requires GovGuam employees to better justify the use of the sole-source method, including a detailed analysis of the government's needs for the product or service, and "the findings of a thorough market research and conclusion that there is no other source which will satisfy the government need." Purchase orders valued above $50,000 will need to be publicly reported within 14 days of the contract being finalized.

Large transactions

According to the information provided by GSA, sole-source purchase orders authorized over $50,000 include:

• $1,370,023.20: Office space lease for the Department of Revenue and Taxation (12 months of lease payments)

• $827,706.84: Maintenance support for the Guam Police Department's AMSS/SmartNet systems and radios

• $655,295.88: Maintenance support for GPD's AMSS/SmartNet systems and radios (note: separate purchase order from entry above)

• $491,553.96: Software subscription and technical support for a tax valuation program

• $364,758.16: Provide transportation services to the elderly

• $236,896.08: Support maintenance services for IDs managed by DRT

• $235,829: Forensic information laboratory system

• $212,501: Uninterruptible power supply upgrades for the Office of Technology

• $183,593.10: Handheld, portable radios

• $186,515.90: Gas chromatography-mass spectrometer system

• $166,802.81: Subscription renewal and technical support for DRT's "onbase income tax system"

• $101,477: A continuation of modeling work that has developed tsunami hazard maps

• $100,000: GIS enterprise license agreement renewal

• $96,943: License and support of the DRT transaction processing system

• $96,739: 10 mobile radios (APX6500 Enhanced 7/800 MHz)

• $95,046.36: Short-term intensive psychiatric treatment stabilization, 24-hour group home for children and adolescents

• $93,367.99: Emergency notification alert system and support

• $90,000: Electronic behavioral health record system (50 concurrent user licenses)

• $80,000: Enhancements and connectivity of "RxCheck" hub implementation

• $76,212.96: Maintenance of land management applications and interface with tax map application system

• $75,000: DRT "Power 7" hardware and software support

• $75,000: Support and maintenance of "Aware" platform

• $75,000: Programming and technical activities to be able to verify "employment data against the national directory of new hires"

• $74,225: Computer software integrated development systems

• $72,090: Annual support and subscription for "JustWare" licenses

• $64,448: Maintenance and support for the for 2 IBM series Power 7 computer systems

• $57,297.36: Digital airtime services for 129 radio units

• $51,500: LIFEPAK 15 (Physio-Control)

• $50,925: Radios (APX6000XE model 1.5 portable)

Pushback from GSA

During the hearing, Claudia Acfalle, GSA's chief procurement officer, said sole-source procurement is also allowed to purchase emerging technology and equipment to see if it works "for our environment." An initial purchase order can be cut using the sole-source method in order to conduct "trial testing," but any future purchases would be made using the competitive process, she said.

She also pushed back during the hearing on criticism the agency has not provided timely information on this type of procurement to senators.

"Why are you guys still alarmed today? Of course, you've got to realize the pandemic happened. Right and that's why everybody now is up in arms about it, but I've been submitting it to the Legislature, why now is it such a big thing? Was the Legislature not watching it? And now becomes a big issue," she said to lawmakers at the June hearing.

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