Forced by State of Alaska policies to use the lowest bidders, when Kelly Tshibaka returned to Alaska, her moving cost burgeoned. The lowest bidder turned out to be a rip-off, another “lowest” bidder had to be contracted to finish the move. Then a third mover was brought in. On it went. It seemed to Tshibaka that the state procurement rules forced people to use the worst movers, who in the end proved to be the costliest. And it cost the State of Alaska some $81,000.
Tshibaka, as commissioner of the Department of Administration, worked to improve procurement processes by standardizing them throughout departments during her tenure at the Department of Administration. But the wheels of bureaucracy move slowly, and the state mostly still uses the “lowest bidder at all costs” method.
Tshibaka is now running for U.S. Senate against incumbent Lisa Murkowski. As such, all of her state records are being pulled for review by news agencies and opposition researchers. The records requests have begun, and the combing of financials. Thus, the costly move home to Alaska became an item of scrutiny for the Anchorage Daily News.
Mary Ann Pruitt, who is senior advisor to the Kelly for Alaska campaign, explained that Tshibaka had no choice but to use the extreme low bidder:
“State officials directed Kelly to obtain multiple moving company bids and she was required to select the lowest one, despite a moving expert’s warning that an extremely low bid was a red flag for potential fraud. Sure enough, throughout the course of the move, there were contract breaches, attempts at sudden cost increases, and refusals to abide by the terms of the contracts. As a result, movers had to be changed several times, with the lowest bid required to be chosen each time. Every step of the way, Kelly urged state officials to reform the system of awarding state contracts of this nature, recommending the use of vetted and trusted vendors, rather than automatically selecting unknown and untested companies who happened to submit the lowest bids. Doing her job as Commissioner, Kelly documented all of these failures of the contractors and reported her findings to the Attorney General’s office. Kelly Tshibaka has dedicated her career to exposing waste and fraud, has returned hundreds of millions of dollars to American taxpayers, and is always mindful of the good stewardship of public funds.”
Tshibaka told the reporter at the ADN that the mover she was forced to pick was operating fraudulently, but that was lost in the crafted narrative. Since Tshibaka left state service after working for two years for Gov. Mike Dunleavy, she is not required to pay back her moving costs, but all along the way she took meticulous notes of the problem move and also advised the state to change its procedures. All of her documentation is in the hands of the state Attorney General, where an investigation into the moving companies is ongoing.
As an inspector general and a rising star for the U.S. Postal Service, when Tshibaka moved back to Alaska to work for Dunleavy, she made a downward career move, but said it was because the state of Alaska was in trouble, and she thought she could help the new governor. Her husband, an attorney, works as an assistant commissioner in the Department of Education. The couple have five children, which explains the need for a large moving van, rather than a U-Haul truck, to get their possessions back to Alaska. The state pays for up to 15,000 pounds of household goods, plus two vehicles, storage, and things like temporary housing, and house-hunting expenses.
“Reasonable and adequate competition must be solicited when acquiring commercial moving company services. If the anticipated/actual cost is over $10,000, a minimum of three verbal quotes is required. If the anticipated/actual cost is over $50,000 a minimum of three written quotes is required. If the least expensive moving company is not used, any additional cost (over what the state would have paid) of moving personal effects will be paid by the employee unless adequate documentation that justifies using a more expensive alternative is approved, in advance, by the employee’s division director (or director’s representative),” according to the the state’s moving expense guidelines.