Webster's defines emergency as "a sudden, generally unexpected occurrence of a set of circumstances demanding immediate action." Illinois defines it as an excuse to skip competitive bidding requirements.
In the fiscal year that just ended, the state let $135 million worth of no-bid, "emergency" contracts. That's $34 million more than the year before, and 300 times the amount spent the last year of former governor Rod Blagojevich.
Some of the no-bid contracts no doubt truly were emergencies, but not all. One glaring example: the state entered into a $15,000 no-bid contract for hot dog spices to be used at Menard Correctional Center in Chester. Who missed that the previous contract was about to expire -- and does that person still work for the state?
A member of the state's Procurement Policy Board suggests all the no-bid contracts could be the result of worker indifference or personnel shortages or "general incompetence." Those are the most positive possibilities. This could also be corruption -- a sly way to give contracts to friends, family and political cronies.
Whatever the explanation, it means that the taxpayers likely are overpaying for goods and services.
Quinn's assistant budget director said the administration is seeking ways to reduce the number of no-bid contracts, but obviously that hasn't been a priority up to now. If it had been, the amount spent on emergency contracts would be going down, not up.