ATLANTA — The State of Georgia spent about $6.1 billion with private companies last financial year (ending June 30), but it only keeps track of the percentages going to minority-owned and female-owned business for about one-fifth of that spending.
Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Richard Belcher started digging into this after Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order in July directing the Department of Administrative Services to study state contracting with an eye toward helping smaller firms owned by women, minorities and veterans.
Kemp’s order said the study should be completed by Oct. 31, just a week before the election. It calls for increasing the state’s outreach to small companies owned by women, minorities and veterans and says DOAS’ report should focus on ways to make it easier for these firms to get involved in doing business with the state.
State Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Fulton County, said a bill he sponsored in the legislature was intended to get at the same issue. His bill failed to pass, but he contends the issue needs attention.
“The idea is to get the money spread through all of the communities throughout the state,” Bruce said.
He fears the governor’s order will produce a report short on specific goals.
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“I haven’t seen anything that says we will do ‘X’ by a certain date, and we need to work on it, we need to make sure there’s some substance to it,” he told Belcher.
Bruce is setting a high bar. He argues that if the state’s population is one-third Black, then roughly one-third of the state’s spending should go to Black-owned companies.
Based on our investigation, Georgia is far short of that now.
DOAS said it directly oversees only about $1.2 billion in statewide contracts, about 20% of total state spending. Of that $1.2 billion, 7.7% went to minority-owned firms last year. Seven percent went to firms owned by women.
A much larger amount -- $4.9 billion -- was spent by various state agencies last year.
DOAS says the state’s financial system is currently unable to track how much of that spending went to minority and female-owned firms.
The Georgia Department of Transportation closely tracks its spending with so-called disadvantaged business enterprises.
GDOT told Channel 2 Action News that it spent about $1.6 billion in state and federal funds last year. About 5.5% went to minority-owned and female-owned companies.
Will state spending with these firms be an issue in the governor’s race?
Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter Greg Bluestein said that so far, voters seem more interested in other issues such as abortion, inflation, guns and the Biden administration.
“It’s tough to overwhelm those issues that have been getting the lion’s share of attention. It’s certainly been an overlooked part of Stacy Abrams’ campaign, because so much focus has been on those controversial issues,” Bluestein said.
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