A pair of audits examining fee offices for driver’s licenses and motor vehicles was released today by Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich (R).
He told reporters the purpose of the audits was to see if the process of awarding bids to run the offices has been de-politicized. One of the audits turned up at least one case of a not-for-profit group using a subcontractor to run 10 license fee offices, which Schweich says is against regulations.
“The Office of Administration canceled the contract for the 10 offices, which is good, but then instead of awarding (it) to the next bidder they rebid the contract and allowed the not-for-profit to participate in the rebidding," Schweich said. "They re-awarded that not-for-profit 8 of the 10 offices as well.”
Schweich says that same not-for-profit also made a number of campaign contributions.
Contracts for running the offices used to be handed out as political patronage, but a system of competitive bidding was gradually phased in in recent years under both Governor Jay Nixon (D) and his predecessor Matt Blunt (R). Schweich says the audits show no evidence of actual political bias in awarding fee offices, but some incidents appear suspect.
“When you’re not giving (applicants) points when they should get points, allowing (them) to modify their proposals or submit late proposals against the regulations, while at the same time (they) are making political contributions, that allows disappointed bidders to claim political bias and it creates an appearance of impropriety in the public," Schweich said.
Schweich added that the Department of Revenue and the governor’s Office of Administration need to stick to the rules and not modify them for certain bidders. In response, the agencies say that state law requires priority be given to not-for-profit groups when awarding bids for fee offices.