The Executive Council votes on all state contracts of $10,000 or more and all personnel contracts of $2,500 or more.
- In 2013 this added up to 1,431 contracts ranging from $2,500 to hundreds of millions of dollars apiece.
- A typical contract of less than $25,000 consumes roughly 40 to 85 hours of personnel time and costs the state nearly $3,000 (as estimated by the Division of Purchase & Property Management). There are hundreds of contracts of this size (374 in 2013).
- Dozens of state employees spend hundreds or thousands of hours a year on paperwork on these contracts. It’s not uncommon for an agency to receive an electronic document from a vendor, print it out and ship it to another agency that makes a dozen or more paper copies for processing, then scans one into a new electronic document. (A project to bring more of the contracting process online is being spearheaded by Councilor Christopher Sununu, and a new consent calendar is being spearheaded by Councilors Christopher Pappas and Colin Van Ostern.
- Contracts of less than $25,000 make up 26 percent of all contracts the council reviews – but they make up roughly 0.2 percent of all funding overseen.
- 100 percent of these contracts have passed in recent years. Effectively, these small contracts are the “hay” in the proverbial haystack – lots of paper standing between citizens and the vastly more impactful “needles” – that is, the multimillion dollar contracts that often don’t raise a single question from a single councilor before passing.
- The state should publish quarterly reports listing even these smaller contracts, for councilors and the public to review.
- Counselor Van Ostern believes best way to ensure both transparency and accountability is to ensure that the council review process focuses on projects that have a big impact on the state – and too often, the smaller contracts are essentially shielding them from the full review they deserve.
- The Executive Council has been meeting for 334 years, and it took until 2014 for a majority of the councilors to abandon the 10,000-page deep council packets each meeting in exchange for laptops and iPads. But New Hampshire is moving forward.
Source: The column by Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern appeared in the Concord Monitor, Keene Sentinel, Foster’s Daily Democrat and Nashua Telegraph on 8/2 and 8/3/14: