IOWA LEGISLATURE

Iowa Senate watchdog: 'I've seen nothing that's illegal' in Workday deal

Gazette probe found state bypassed typical bidding on $50M computing contract

The Iowa Capitol is seen in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
The Iowa Capitol is seen in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — The chairwoman of the Senate Government Oversight Committee said Tuesday she doesn’t see a reason to hold a hearing about how the state signed a $50 million cloud-computing deal without using traditional competitive bidding.

“My job as government oversight is to look in case things are done improperly,” said Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton. “At this point, I’ve seen nothing that’s illegal. I’m not going to speak to optics. It’s not my optics.”

Two Iowa Senate Democrats formally requested an oversight meeting to investigate “the Administration skirting the state’s competitive bidding process, committing taxpayers to nearly $50 million with no oversight or appropriation by the Legislature, and the involvement of the Governor’s former Chief of Staff.”

Sens. Claire Celsi, West Des Moines, and Tony Bisignano, Des Moines, sent the letter Monday to Sinclair, pointing to a Gazette investigation that revealed the state signed the contract with Workday, a California-based company, through a procurement organization from Texas instead of using in-state competitive bidding. The contract was signed after Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ chief of staff, Jake Ketzner, left her office and became a lobbyist for Workday.

When asked Tuesday about how it might look for her former No. 2 to be connected with the firm that got a lucrative state contract, Reynolds said Ketzner had no role.

“He had nothing to do with it,” she told reporters. “That’s why I took all of the precautions to work with the Attorney General’s Office to make sure we had those conversations about how we move through this process.”

Reynolds said her office confirmed with the AG’s office and the State Auditor that it was legal for the state to sign a contract through the National Cooperative Purchasing Alliance, a Houston-based for-profit organization that solicits bids and signs contracts for government agencies to join.

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Reynolds said the state not only signed a competitively bid contract through the alliance, but got better pricing because of a 2017 contract that Iowa State University had signed with Workday.

“I have an obligation to really do my job to represent the taxpayers of Iowa to make sure that I’m doing in an efficient, effective way and at the lowest cost, and I believe we’ve accomplished all of those,” she said.

Bisignano and Celsi say the Senate committee should look into:

• Who made the decision to skip the state’s traditional competitive bidding processes and what other contracts, if any, also have been outsourced?

• What is the source of funds for the new software?

• Are there cost-benefit analyses of Workday implementations in other state governments or public universities?

• Are there records of communications between Ketzner and officials in the Governor’s Office, Office of Chief Information Officer and Department of Administrative Services?

The senators asked Sinclair to schedule a meeting soon because of the upcoming Senate confirmation vote for Annette Dunn, Iowa’s Chief Information Officer, who signed the Workday contract in October.

Celsi said Tuesday she would vote against Dunn based on the contract, but she didn’t know how much power she and Bisignano, outnumbered as Democrats on the Oversight Committee, would have to push Sinclair to hold a meeting.

“This (contract) could reflect badly on the governor, so I would think she (Sinclair) would be pretty reticent to hold a meeting,” Celsi said.

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Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

Iowa’s Workday Timeline

Sept. 26, 2016 — Iowa State University signs $17.6 million contract with Workday, a California-based software company. It’s later announced in the Iowa State Daily newspaper.

Sept. 21, 2017 — Iowa Department of Transportation signs $9.4 million contract with Workday, piggybacking on financial terms set by ISU contract.

June 8, 2018 — Jake Ketzner leaves as Gov. Kim Reynolds’ chief of staff to “pursue opportunities outside state government.”

Oct. 1, 2018 — First date Ketzner is listed as a lobbyist for Workday.

Oct. 30, 2019 — Iowa Office of the Chief Information Officer signs $21 million, five-year contract with Workday to provide human resources and financial cloud-computing services.

Feb. 11, 2020 — Iowa OCIO signs $28 million Workday contract for implementation of human resources systems by summer 2021 and financial systems by summer 2022.

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