One quote is not enough for getting a good deal

The Yellow Medicine County Board last week unanimously approved the expenditure of $58,845 to update software for the prosecutor’s office inside the courthouse.

This vote took place after County Attorney Keith Helgeson told the board that the software will replace the Minnesota Counties Computer software currently used in the prosecutor’s office. The software allows the office to echarge criminal complaints in a paperless system.

Is $58,845 a good deal for quality prosecutor’s office software?

We will never really know, because Helgeson reported that only one quote was sought. He told the board because the contract is for software, it’s an exception to the requirement that the county get two quotes before proceeding with the decision to purchase the product.

Helgeson’s report also explained how he originally asked the company for a smaller package that cost less than $50,000. But he said the more expensive system had all the features needed by the prosecutor’s office. Helgeson also explained the original proposal did not include the cost to convert current data from the old system to the new system. It also didn’t include the cost to interface the program with the sheriff’s office database.

The Independent asked county Administrator Peg Hegland why not voluntarily seek a quote from at least one other entity? Seeking multiple quotes before a major purchase is just a wise business practice.

Hegland reported back that “there are very few vendors out there for it.”

Yes, there may be just a few vendors out there, but there are other software companies who sell justice systems. How much more effort would it have taken to seek a second or even third quote? That second or third step would at least give the appearance that county officials did everything possible to get the best product for the best price.

Quick decisions can sometimes lead to bad outcomes. A good example of that is the current fiasco involving the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System. Almost $100 million has been spent on that broken system, and the state may have to spend a lot more to fix it.

But county officials and board members should also be cognizant of transparency. They owe that to the people they serve in Yellow Medicine County. None of the board members were on record in questioning Helgeson during his report. It’s troublesome to see government and elected officials give the appearance that they can rubber stamp a nearly $60,000 decision.