Lawmakers Question Agency Contracting Practices, Claim “Self-Serving” Fee Hikes Are Undercutting Small Business

DENVER – A number of Republican senators have joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers raising red flags about one state agency’s purchasing practices in a letter to Governor John Hickenlooper.

The letter, delivered April 27, questioned the arguably-too-cozy relationship between the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Envirotest, a private contractor that conducts vehicle emissions testing for the state. The letter asks why CDPHE amended an Envirotest contract in a way that allowed the company to charge higher fees to Colorado consumers, apparently in exchange for equipment to supply the agency’s new High Altitude Emissions Testing Laboratory.

To make matters worse, the facility appears to compete directly with a highly- qualified private Colorado firm.

Reads the letter in part:

“To our knowledge, this contract amendment, permitting Envirotest to raise fees on Colorado consumers in exchange for the equipment to establish a laboratory that undercuts private business, was not subject to legislative review or approval. We find it outrageous if a state agency did indeed circumvent the regular state purchasing procedures and policies in what appears to be an entirely self-serving enterprise.”

Senator Tim Neville(R-Littleton) said he signed the letter because something about the “deal” smelled suspicious. “I find it troubling, to say the least, that a state agency would think that it is appropriate to not only sidestep state purchasing laws, but to do so in a way that raises fees on Colorado citizens and undermines a private Colorado business,” said Senator Neville. “We have these laws for a reason, and my colleagues and I call on the Governor to put a halt on any of these transactions until such time as we in the legislature have been allowed to provide the necessary oversight on this matter.”

Senator Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City), who also signed the letter, said the case helps highlights why Republicans have made greater government oversight a top priority since winning back a Senate majority. “Colorado’s state government has grown so large, complicated and costly that we no longer can afford to leave the watchdog role to just the governor and state auditor,” said Grantham, whose own oversight responsibilities have grown due to his seat on the influential Joint Budget Committee. “The only way we can ever get state government running like it should run, with maximum efficiently, transparently and accountability, is for each of us serving here to make protection of taxpayers a priority.”

No response has yet been received from the governor’s office.

 

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