Georgia Democrats demand investigation into $1.1 billion contract

Georgia Democrats demand a probe after a state audit raised concerns about whether Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration violated state procurement regulations, possibly for political advantage.

It’s unclear which state or federal authorities will lead the inquiry, and Democrats say they haven’t publicly requested one.

The Georgia Department of Human Services signed a $1.1 billion contract to deliver debit cards to direct benefit users, including Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The deal was highlighted during a January assessment by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts.

Georgia Democrats demand investigation into $1.1 billion contract

During a virtual media conference, state Rep. Tanya Miller, D-Atlanta, responded to a question from The Center Square by stating that when an individual government agency receives federal monies, there are guidelines that control how those funds are spent. “I certainly believe that there is a question about whether or not there was some misuse of federal monies or the procedure for distributing federal funds.

“I think that’s a legitimate question,” Miller said. “But certainly, there are multiple criminal investigative offices that would have jurisdiction over this.”

The “special examination,” performed at the request of the Senate Appropriations Committee, looked into state procurement and competitive bidding. In general, the report noted that “purchases largely comply with state competitive bidding requirements with a few exceptions” and pointed out that “additional guidance and audits would likely lead to fewer non-compliant purchases.”

“DHS and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget directly provided a solicitation document to four potential suppliers and obtained proposals from three,” according to the report. “In a manner similar to that typically used for solicitations, the proposals were reviewed and scored by a panel of DHS and OPB staff members to determine the awardee.”

According to the audit, submitting a request for proposal under the state’s competitive bidding regulations usually takes at least four to six months. In this scenario, the solicitation document for this program was released on August 25, and the supplier was chosen on September 1.

Democrats seized on the finding.

“It appears that the Kemp administration had something to gain because instead of following this state law, the audit found that the state handpicked a couple of vendors to ask for bids from and took only seven days to select a vendor for the $1.1 billion project,” state Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, said in the briefing.

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