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7/24/2013
Judge: Contract mistakes

JUNEAU (AP) — A state department violated procurement code by making changes to an office furniture contract that undermined the competitive bidding process, an administrative law judge has ruled.

The judge sided with Fairbanks-based Bowers Office Furniture, which appealed after the Department of General Services denied its protest over Juneau-based Capital Office Supply getting the contract, the Juneau Empire reported Tuesday.

The judge decided the state should cancel the contract and reimburse Bowers for its proposal preparation costs but Department of Administration Commissioner Becky Hultberg has the final say. She sent the decision back to the Office of Administrative Hearings for further deliberation.

The office has 45 days to reissue a decision. The state can continue buying furniture through Capital Office Supply in the meantime.

"There were questions on both sides that were not fully explored and this is allowing them to bring those forward," Administration department spokesman Andy Mills said. "What we’re really trying to do is make sure that it’s fully vetted."

General Services, in searching for furniture vendors, issued a "request for submissions" — which isn’t a process listed in the state procurement code — when typically a "request for proposals" would go out.

According to the judge’s decision, several furniture dealers raised concerns about the request for submissions process, being offered through a cooperative purchasing organization of 15 states. In response to vendor concerns, General Services revised its request. Dealers were encouraged to submit bids offering additional discounts on existing cooperative contract prices.