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TEA: Beaumont ISD contracts did not meet state guidelines - 12 News KBMT and K-JAC. News, Weather and Sports for SE Texas

TEA: Beaumont ISD contracts did not meet state guidelines

The Beaumont Independent School district is responding to an investigation conducted by the Texas Education Agency.

Chief Business Officer Robert Zingelmann says the district is already in the midst of completing the required three-point action plan noted in the TEA report, which ordered the Beaumont Independent School District to come back into compliance with federal, state and local policies in awarding bids to independent contractors.

The action came as a result of an audit conducted by the TEA which was investigating a number of contracts that were awarded within the last three years.

The TEA issued their findings to BISD last week. 12 News HD was given a copy of that letter in an email from TEA Tuesday night.

The Texas Education Agency is requiring BISD to take the following actions:

  1. The district must take the necessary steps to comply with the local, state and federal competitive procurement policies and regulations. In addition, school officials responsible for the procurement process should receive additional training in the area of state and federal procurement rules and regulations.
  2. The district should consult its legal counsel concerning the construction activities completed by Walker's Electric Company in light of recent concerns raised relating to the validity of the company's license issued by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
  3. The district must review and update, as necessary, its policies

The district says staff members are receiving ongoing training.  The district added that the second requirement has been completed, which assures that the district's electrical contractor of record meets state licensing requirements. The reviewing and updating of district policies and procedures for procurement will be completed and submitted to TEA by the end of this month, according to BISD.

"In normal circumstances, the concerns raised via this TEA audit would be reasonable issues, however, in the aftermath of major natural disasters, such as recovering from two hurricanes, required several emergency actions. The Board of Trustees, in its authority, called for a state of emergency for BISD. This helped BISD expedite getting our facilities ready for students and employees and consequently, helped to jumpstart getting Southeast Texas back to normal. In the long run, when looking back over what was done in the time of crises, and then looking forward to where we are now, I believe our school district and community benefited. This is shown in the millions of dollars saved by BISD in not waiting months and months to get our district back to normal. According to TEA and other financial rating organizations, BISD is in a solid financial position," Zingelmann explained.

 

A preliminary report was sent to BISD in January and the district was allowed to respond to each of the TEA's initial findings, which the district did in early February.

This final report includes the TEA's initial findings and BISD's response to those findings, as well as the TEA's concerns and recommendations moving forward.

The TEA audit raises questions about whether the district violated Texas Education Code when entering into a contract with Walker's Electric Company.

The agency also questions whether Walker's Electric's master electrician had a valid license while performing work BISD.

Auditors also took issue with BISD declaring "emergency procurement status" to approve several contracts without going out for bids following Hurricane Ike.

 One of those contracts was awarded to Healthy Resources Enterprises, Inc for more than $19 million. The contract was the second phase of a two-phase repair project to Smith Middle School. While the TEA says the first phase, worth $434,000, was properly awarded under emergency status, they say the second phase of the project, worth $18.8 million, is beyond the amount allowed "under a job order contract process."

BISD told the TEA that the contract with Healthy Resources Enterprises, Inc. was executed with BISD's interlocal agreement with Choice Facility Partners, a division of Harris County Department of Education.

But TEA auditors found that the contract between BISD and Healthy Resources Enterprises, Inc expired in February 2008, one year prior to the district awarding the contract.

The audit questions another contract with A&E Electric and Walker's Electric Company for repairs at the Ozen High School football field.

BISD used emergency procurement status to explain bypassing TEC procurement requirements before awarding a contract to SeTex Construction Corporation for repairs to Martin Luther King Middle School following Hurricane Ike.

The district entered into a contract totaling $1,520,000 in December 2008 for cleanup, repairs, and damage mitigation, then entered into an additional contract with SeTex for additional repairs in February 2009 for nearly $5.4 million.

The Auditors agree that the first phase of the contract would be allowable under emergency procurement status.

Yet, auditors stated that the time between September 2008, when Hurricane Ike hit southeast Texas, and February 2009 would have been enough time for BISD to seek competitive bids for the second phase under TEC procurement requirements.

The agency also questions a $57 thousand fire lane the district had constructed at Lucas Elementary School without providing documentation of competitive procurement.

The Texas Education Agency is requiring BISD to take the following actions:

  1. The district must take the necessary steps to comply with the local, state and federal competitive procurement policies and regulations. In addition, school officials responsible for the procurement process should receive additional training in the area of state and federal procurement rules and regulations.
  2. The district should consult its legal counsel concerning the construction activities completed by Walker's Electric Company in light of recent concerns raised relating to the validity of the company's license issued by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
  3. The district must review and update, as necessary, its policies
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