While the public cannot see the winning bidders for larger service contracts, they can find some useful state spending data online. Here’s what the public can see:
Master agreement contract information: The Division of Purchases posts information about hundreds of contracts with various vendors selling commodities that are available to all state departments and, in some cases, cities and towns. Commodities range from portable generators, military Humvee parts, to legal advertisements with the Bangor Daily News.
Request for proposals: The Division of Purchases posts online requests for proposals, which are advertisements for public bid opportunities. RFPs are usually for outside organizations to provide services valued over $10,000, such as legal help for juvenile cases or trash pickup for National Guard bases. RFPs are taken off the website on the date proposals are due.
Competitive bidding waiver requests: Departments are allowed to bypass the competitive bidding process for goods and services in certain circumstances, such as if the cost of the service is under $5,000, if it is needed immediately due to an emergency, or if it’s under $10,000 and going out to bid is less economical. To enter into a so-called “sole-source” contract, departments need to fill out a competitive bid waiver request form and submit it to the Division of Purchases for approval. Those waivers are posted online for a minimum of seven consecutive days.
Requests for quotations: An online system called Advantage – Vendor Self Service posts requests for quotations, which are bidding opportunities for relatively low-cost commodities such as brochures, equipment or surveillance cameras. The system allows businesses to see active requests for quotations and place a bid online.
Maine Open Checkbook: The LePage administration launched a website called the Maine Open Checkbook in 2013. The website shows some of the state’s spending data, including department payments and employee compensation. It also shows the federal and state money spent by various state agencies that receive public funding. But it provides little insight into how those expenditures factor into contracts.