Department of Information Technology threatens to block Mark Johnson’s emergency Istation purchase

In a tersely worded memo sent to the Department of Public Instruction today, NC Department of Information Technology Chief Procurement Officer Patti Bowers warned that the state’s Chief Information Officer could exercise his statutory authority to “cancel or suspend any information technology procurement that occurs without the State CIO’s approval.”

The memo referred to Superintendent Mark Johnson’s $928,570 “emergency purchase” of the controversial online reading assessment Istation made late Tuesday night.

Emergency purchases require authorization of the CIO with few exceptions. One of those exceptions is if they “must be made outside normal business hours.”

In the memo, DIT noted that “If every contract signed after business hours constituted an emergency, the term would be rendered meaningless.”

Johnson has until 10 AM on Tuesday, January 14 to provide satisfactory responses to the following questions. If he fails to respond, or if the responses provided are not satisfactory, it appears likely the state CIO could well intervene and cancel the Istation purchase:

1. Why was prior verbal approval not obtained and why was it necessary to execute the RFQ after business hours? Please supply copies of emails, notes, and native documents together with associated metadata or similar records.

2. What are the specific emergency event(s) that constitute the “recent circumstances endanger[ing] the continuation of Read to Achieve (“RtA”)” as referenced in the “Emergency Purchase-RtA Reading Diagnostic Assessment” dated January 7, 2020?

3. Clarify the costs associated with the RFQ and compare those costs to the costs proposed in the original contract in order to determine if there are any discrepancies.

4. The RFQ presents two payments which appear to be installments and are not aligned with the costs presented. Describe the services and term for Phase I with a payment due date of 1/15/2020 and Phase II with a payment due date of 3/15/2020.

5. Do the costs for either Phase I or Phase II include payment for services rendered under the “no cost” Memorandum of Agreement executed August 27, 2019, and expiring December 31, 2019? Provide documentation that the “no cost” services were received and accepted without further obligation by either party

You can read the memo in its entirety below:


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