Las Vegas Sun

November 20, 2017

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Certification issues freeze local company out of county drug-testing contract

Clark County commissioners are throwing out the bids for a drug-testing services contract and starting the process over after concerns were raised about awarding the $550,000 contract to an out-of-state vendor. But those concerns aren't helping a local applicant land the bid.

The issue: Commissioners needed to decide what to do about a drug-testing services contract that has been stalled since April over concerns about the bidding process.

The vote: Commissioners voted unanimously to cancel the previous bids and authorized staff to begin negotiating a contract with two out-of-state firms.

What it means: The county will spend the next several months negotiating with California-based Phamatech and Colorado-based i3 Screen to provide drug-testing services for the Department of Family Services.

They’ll have until October, when the contract with the current vendor Synergy Laboratories runs out.

Based in Las Vegas, Synergy Laboratories has been the Department of Family Service’s choice for court-ordered drug testing in child welfare cases for the past three years, so commissioners were surprised in April when staff recommended hiring Phamatech for a $550,000 annual contract that can be extended for up to four years.

“It was a local company whom there had been no complaints from staff about,” Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said. “I thought, ‘Wait a second, why are we doing that?’”

Part of the reason Phamatech was favored over the local applicant was in how the request for bids was written.

Phamatech and i3 Screen, which placed first and second in the initial bidding, both hold a higher certification than Synergy Laboratories, which was not among the top three bids received. The higher certification gave the out-of-state firms an edge in how the bid was scored.

Only 35 labs nationwide have this high-level Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration certification; none are in Nevada.

Because there were no local options with the proper certification, commissioners agreed to award the contract to either Phamatech or i3 Screen.

Although much of the money will be going out-of-state, between 30 percent and 40 percent of the total value is expected to be subcontracted to local labs, family services director Lisa Ruiz-Lee said.

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