The Maryland Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee gave a briefing on May 29, 2020 to share updates on the State’s emergency procurement during the COVID-19 crisis. Review presentations from Secretary Churchill and Chief Procurement Officer Gleason below.
Q&A with Ellington Churchill
Secretary, Department of General Services
Senator Paul Pinsky: Was the contract with Blueflame Medical a result of them reaching out to the department or the administration?
Ellington Churchill: Like a majority of our purchases, this was a contract or overture to the state that was evaluated.
Senator Paul Pinsky: When did they reach out to the administration with an offer to broker masks?
Ellington Churchill: It was March 29th.
Senator Paul Pinsky: Within 48 hours Blueflame Medical was offered a contract. Blueflame Medical had only been incorporated for 6 days and had no track record. What kind of vetting process did you put them through?
Ellington Churchill: We had conversations with the vendor to understand their material, we looked at the resource material that was provided. We had their reported record. We relied heavily on their partner that was indicated in writing.
Senator Paul Pinsky: Did you have contact with anyone in the governor’s office?
Ellington Churchill: No, we stayed within the guardrails of our procurement methodology.
Senator Paul Pinsky: During those 48 hours did you have any contact with a member of the governor’s staff?
Ellington Churchill: The referral came from a member of the governor’s team. No conversations were held with the governor’s team concerning getting a contract with Blueflame Medical. We were looking simply at what could be established as fulfillment for any particular vendor.
Senator Paul Pinsky: Who referred this company to you?
Ellington Churchill: I am going to leave it at “it was a member of the governor’s team just as I am a member of the governor’s team.”
Senator Cheryl Kagen: How soon are we going to make sure that staff and residents of our nursing homes can get the attention they need?
Ellington Churchill: Your question is best asked to the MD Department of Health.
Senator Clarence Lam: Regarding Blueflame Medical. Were there any medical people helping in making any of these procurement decisions?
Ellington Churchill: Yes in any case where the materials were offered the material was referred for approval to the MD Department of Health.
Senator Clarence Lam: Regarding Blueflame Medical. Who in the process is checking on the business and the background?
Ellington Churchill: That is a part of our process. We look at where the business resides, the license of the business, the Dun & Bradstreet score and other requirements were reviewed by the Department of Commerce. We had follow up conversations.
Q&A with Robert Gleason
Chief Procurement Officer, Department of General Services
Senator Mary Washington: What is the process on approval of contracts?
Robert Gleason: We have gone through the phases, for example in the beginning it was react and respond. In this phase we can be more vigilant. In this later phase we can be more responsible and responsive.
Senator Mary Washington: You don’t have to get approval?
Robert Gleason: We do have to report.
Senator Mary Washington: How do we ensure small businesses, minority and women owned business are not excluded from this process of getting a lucrative contract?
Robert Gleason: We are very conscious of small businesses, minority and women owned business. We can now engage in a more systematic way using the rules of engagement. The value that we reported to the Board of Public Works was around $270 million, 57% of those orders were with Maryland companies. We have $34 million with minority businesses, and $32 million with small businesses.
Delegate Samuel Rosenberg: You said you look at the ability of a company to execute, is there language in the code that speaks to that and guides you in that regard?
Robert Gleason: There is a reasonable due diligence with the extent that we can validate that either a tier 1, tier 2, or tier 3 partner of any supplier has demonstrated any prior experience to do that.
Delegate Samuel Rosenberg: How did you determine Blueflame’s ability to execute? What was your assessment?
Robert Gleason: As I recall it was further upstream in the supply chain, I believe there was a tier or a tier 3 distributor or reseller or someone that had the ability or demonstrated performance in the past.
Senator Craig Zucker: Is there a vendor that we trust and are you communicating with other procurement officers in the counties to let them know what opportunities are available to them for purchasing PPE?
Robert Gleason: Any of our local procurement officers can source products on their own. We do have a database of vendors. We are a part of the emergency vendor database started by commerce, that is available for any procurement officer, they can reach out to our office as well.
Senator Katie Fry Hester: Has there been any other procurement requests to purchase more tests?
Robert Gleason: Your question is best asked by the subject matter expert and I am not the subject matter expert. That would be better asked of the Maryland Department of Health.
If you have any questions or concerns explore our COVID-19 resource page, or reach out to us directly at 410-321-8200.