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COVID-19 in Maryland Government & Politics

Reznik Asks AG, State Prosecutor To Investigate Purchase of Korean COVID Test Kits

Del. Kirill Reznik (D-Montgomery) leaves the House chamber Annex during the 2021 General Assembly session. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Del. Kirill Reznik (D-Montgomery) sent a letter Friday to Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) and State Prosecutor Charlton T. Howard III asking that they open an investigation relating to the recently released audit concerning the state’s relationship with the Korean COVID-19 test kit company, LabGenomics.

“The report produced by the Office of Legislative Audits (OLA) demonstrates not only a lack of oversight and transparency, but a strong indication that our State’s procurement laws and regulations were violated,” Reznik wrote.

The audit released in April revealed that the state spent nearly $12 million on the procurement and transportation of 500,000 COVID-19 test kits. And while Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) announced the acquisition of the test kits to great fanfare, it was later revealed that the first order of tests was incomplete.

Most of those tests were returned in June 2020, and a second order arrived soon after at an additional cost of more than $2.5 million.

Hogan strenuously defended the test purchase during a news conference Friday, saying Reznik has been “lying” about the procurement and that his desire for an investigation was “just absurd.”

Reznik took to Twitter, suggesting Hogan hadn’t read the Office of Legislative Audits’ report.

“Apparently ‘I’m lying’ that the OLA report found impropriety and a lack of documentation,” he tweeted Friday evening. “Maybe he should read it.”

The governor also called the purchase the state’s “biggest and greatest accomplishment during the entire fight on COVID-19.”

“The procurement was great,” Hogan said. “Every single one of those 500,000 tests was utilized. Not a single false reading. All of the stories are false. We’ve repeatedly given everybody the facts. And it’s just partisan nonsense.”

The auditors concluded that there was no written contract with LabGenomics for the purchase of the test kits, nor was there clear documentation of which state employee authorized the procurement.

The audit also probed whether two state employees were fired after they raised concerns related to the COVID tests: a former director of student health services at Towson University, who said that incorrect false-positive tests results created the illusion of an “outbreak” on campus, and Dana L. Dembrow, the state health department’s procurement chief, who said he was forced out of the position after asking questions about the test purchase.

In his letter, Reznik noted that members of the Board of Public Works — Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) and State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) — have also raised concern about whether the administration is following procurement laws. Since the start of the pandemic, the administration has failed to report 46 “emergency” procurements to the spending panel within a 45-day statutory limit.

“In some cases, BPW is still waiting for reporting after the procurement itself ended and, likely, final payment was made,” Reznik wrote.

Reznik said that he understands the intent behind the emergency procurement was “to help Marylanders in unprecedented times.”

“However, even in unprecedented times; especially in unprecedented time[s], laws must be followed to maintain the trust and support of the public. In this case, regardless of intent, it appears that laws may have been broken in the process,” Reznik wrote.

“At a minimum, it appears that the Hogan Administration, through the Chief Procurement Officer, Secretary of General Services, and other cabinet officials, is playing fast and loose with the rules for expediency,” he wrote.

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Reznik Asks AG, State Prosecutor To Investigate Purchase of Korean COVID Test Kits