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Franchot takes oath with call for procurement reform

Comptroller Peter Franchot took the oath of office for his third term Monday with a call for Maryland to overhaul what he called a "broken" system for buying goods and services.

Franchot, a Democrat, promised a new era of cooperation between his agency and the governor's office after Gov. Larry Hogan administered the oath.

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The ceremony marked a continuation of a bipartisan alliance that has been strengthening since Hogan was elected in November.

"We have become good friends. We agree on a lot of things," Hogan told the crowd that filled the House of Delegates chamber in Annapolis.

The warm relations between Hogan and Franchot stand in contrast with the comptroller's sometimes tense interactions with former Gov. Martin O'Malley, a fellow Democrat.

Along with Hogan and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, Franchot sits on the powerful Board of Public Works, which reviews and awards large state contracts.

Franchot said that as comptroller he has seen the flaws in the state's procurement process. He said the state's contract solicitations too often attract a single bidder, usually the incumbent provider. In other cases, he said, agencies bring in expensive extensions of existing contracts because officials didn't realize the time had come to seek new bids. He also decried a practice under which agencies contract for work and then seek retroactive approval by the board.

The current procurement system has led many potential bidders to believe the process is "rigged in favor of a few well-connected players."

"This broken system does a profound disservice to our taxpayers," Franchot said.

Procurement reform is expected to be high on the list of subjects taken up by the General Assembly this year. Both Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford have expressed an interest in overhauling the system.

Franchot, who first won the office in 2006 in an upset over former Gov. and then Comptroller William Donald Schaefer,  became only the fourth Marylander to be elected as the state's chief tax collector a third time.

The comptroller promised to maintain a commitment to courteous customer service. He said taxpayers who call shouldn't be treated "as if they're interrupting our lunch break." He said a failure to provide prompt, friendly service would be grounds for firing.

"Not once in eight years have I terminated a single employee for failing to meet that standard, because they get it," Franchot said.

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