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Report: “Poor” Communications Clouded Utah’s Novid COVID-19 Contract



SALT LAKE CITY — Insufficient communication between state departments and lack of cooperation with health officials causes controversial multi-million dollar coronaviruses with technology companies, according to a limited legislative review released Tuesday. Exacerbated contract issues.

In a review by legislative auditors, many of the more than $ 97.3 million state agencies spent on emergency spending in response to the COVID-19 pandemic from March to July were “no major concerns.” Was executed. ” However, the two contracts “should have benefited from better communication, collaboration, and direction if all relevant country entities were included in the decision.”

These deals include a $ 4 million partnership with Twenty Labs on the Healthy Together app and a $ 9.6 million partnership with Nomi Utah on the Test Utah initiative.

“What we found was a really greater need for cooperation,” legislative inspector Kade Minchey told a member of the Legislative Audit Subcommittee. “We understand that a lot of things were happening in the meantime, but I’m still particularly concerned about those contracts. Some pitfalls if there was a collaboration with the entity playing there. May have had the opportunity to avoid. “

The contract with Twenty to develop the Healthy Together app was intended to help with COVID-19 contact tracking and more, but it wasn’t a successful tool for state health authorities. The tracking feature, which was first proposed to help track contacts, has since been turned off. This is due to privacy issues that kept many Utahns away from the app. The app has recently been revised to use Bluetooth.

While questions and concerns swirl around the app Another Utah businessman offered the same service for free..

To date, the state has paid more than $ 4 million for the Twenty app and continues to pay $ 300,000 for ongoing monthly maintenance.

According to the review, Utah Health Department personnel were not included in the contract negotiations with Noumi Utah and the TestUtah initiative.$ 3 million for the first month of five drive-through test locations and lab services, and $ 600,000 per month for each active test location. Initially proposed as crowdfunding..

Questions and concerns are also swirling about the accuracy of TestUtah’s COVID-19 test. Although lab staff are fiercely advocating test integrity,..

Legislative auditors wrote in their report that “a full audit of all contracts would be required to identify deep-seated questions,” but Utah auditor John Dougal said for several months COVID- 19 We are auditing emergency spending. His office does not provide a timeline as to when the audit will be completed.

However, in their limited review, legislative auditors found that more than $ 64 million in the contract between 20 and Nomi, and the urgent purchase of personal protective equipment, did not violate the state’s emergency procurement law. ..

“But the state used the flexibility component (of the emergency procurement code) in 20 contracts, but based on the interviews it conducted and the documents it considered, I think there was room for competition,” the auditor wrote. I will.

The auditor said the Utah Department of Health was not completely involved in the contract and that “greater cooperation” between the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget and the purchasing department “should be happening in the early stages” pandemic. “

“For example, negotiating the Healthy Together app for contact tracking didn’t require a purchase or DOH until the final 20 contracts were signed,” the auditor wrote. “Utah Code’s Urgent Procurement Requirements No particular entity needs to be involved in the contract. We believe it helps to secure better contracts and better align national actors with a common vision. ”

The auditor also wrote to the Ministry of Health that “we were not fully engaged in the initial negotiations of the original Noumi contract when we were able to provide expertise on the subject of exam setup and protocols,” the state technical services department said. Was not involved in the initial contract with.

“Another area of ​​inadequate collaboration we have found is the continued use and monitoring of these contracts,” the auditor wrote. “It was reported that an entity in one state continued to work with one vendor, called for additional work, and prioritized some of the original terms and conditions without the knowledge of other state agencies. Was. “

While one state agency oversaw the app’s contract, another agency processed the payment.

“This causes confusion and decentralizes the effectiveness of monitoring contracts for compliance,” the auditor wrote. “The agency must contact us about the contract revision and assign a single entity to supervise and monitor the contract.”

The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget led the first contract negotiations for both 20 and Nomi before the Utah Department of Health began processing contracts.

Senator Susanne Harrison (D-Draper) and Senator Andrew Stoddard (D-Sandy) both received frank criticism of the 20-Nomi deal, but the no-bid contract given to the caretaker government. The committee again expressed concern during the briefing session on Tuesday.

Mr. Stoddard said he had paid more than $ 4 million for “non-functional apps” in 20 states, and broke those contracts or broke those contracts with Phildeen, the interim director of the Governor-General’s Office of Management and Budget. Did you renegotiate them? “

Dean, who took over as Secretary-General of the Office of Management and Budget Kristenkox when he resigned last month, said: There was a debate about ensuring that the app served its purpose. It is no exaggeration to say that there is ongoing debate about it. ”

When asked specifically about a free offer from another business to develop a contact tracking app, Dean said, “There were multiple conversations about other opportunities,” but the state is under an urgent procurement process. Said you need to go through the competitive bidding process because it’s not working in.

“These companies have multi-million dollar medical service contracts, even though they have no health care background,” Harrison said.

“Can you comment on what kind of consultations were made by healthcare professionals to claim that they are wise contracts to enter into in the no-bid contract process?” Harrison asked Dean.

“I can’t answer that question directly because I’m not personally involved in these aspects,” Dean said.

“I would invest in existing public health infrastructure and consult with a taxpayer’s dollar, at least before signing a non-bid contract with a company that does not have these expertise. I think it was a wise use, “Harrison said.

The report’s legislative auditor provided some “lessons learned”-summarized under the heading “Improved communication and collaboration was a consistent theme.” They recommended that Congress “consider these lessons to determine if more guidance is needed to direct governments how to use future emergency sourcing.”

In a written response to the legislative review, purchasing officials said the agency “promises to make Utah’s procurement code efficient and effective in all emergencies and non-emergency situations.” Said.

On Tuesday in another Audit Subcommittee, Speaker of the House Brad Wilson (R-K’sville) said the legislative review was “no misappropriation of funds, no explicit violations of state law or state law, and a state of emergency. It is also under the umbrella. ” , Not all procurement decisions are made equally. “

Some of the decisions to buy personal protective equipment, such as personal protective equipment, need to be timely, according to Wilson, “probably a little longer and maybe a little more collaboration.”

“I think there were many decisions that needed to be made quickly, and in general I think the decisions were successful,” Wilson said. “I think it is our duty as a legislature to take lessons that we can learn and ensure that they are prospectively positioned for future times similar to this. I’m

Senate minority leader Karenmain of D-West Valley City said additional guardrails could be installed in state law to avoid future problems. In her assessment, the problem arose from the lawn battle and personality problems.

“If it’s not a virus, it’s going to be something, and we need to get things in order,” she said, “structuring so that they work together and don’t step on each other’s toes. It goes into everything, including the personality and the lawn that puts the structure for placement. ”

She called it an “awakening call” to state agencies to work better together.

“This was terrible, but I think our procedure will be better for this,” she said.

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