Saying he hopes to shield himself and the General Assembly from potential charges of favoritism, Gov. William Donald Schaefer announced yesterday that he will appoint two committees to review bids for a new $75 million lottery computer system.
Four companies represented by four of the most successful and influential of Annapolis lobbyists -- several with close ties to Mr. Schaefer -- have expressed an interest in submitting bids. Three of the four have complained publicly that bid specifications prepared by the State Lottery Agency are biased in favor of the fourth potential bidder, Control Data Corp.
Legislators and lobbyists urged Mr. Schaefer to step into the process, and yesterday he did.
"These committees will ensure the integrity of the Lottery Agency's bidding process and, as far as possible, keep the bid review outside and beyond any semblance of favoritism," the governor said.
The governor has asked several major Maryland corporations to name persons to serve on his committees.
Under the plan he outlined yesterday, the committees would take the bids that are due on Nov. 8 and review them independently. One committee would examine the technical aspects of the bids. One would look at the financial aspects.
Under Mr. Schaefer's plan, a final recommendation to the Board of Public Works, based on the committee reviews, would be made by Budget Secretary Charles L. Benton Jr.
Still a part of the process, according to Paul Schurick, the governor's press secretary, is a paragraph in the request for bid proposals that forbids bidders from talking about their bids to the news media, lottery officials, members of the General Assembly or any other state officials. Mr. Schurick said the language is retained as further insulation from political pressure -- though the Lottery Agency says the language is only advisory.
Bruce C. Bereano, who represents GTECH of Providence, R.I., had been the most vocal critic of the Lottery Agency's bid proposal, alleging that it was biased toward Control Data, which has been the Lottery Agency's computer vendor for nine years.
Under the regular procurement process, a contractor is chosen by the procuring state agency. Vendors who are unhappy may appeal, in turn, to that agency, to the state's Board of Contract Appeals, the Board of Public Works and finally to the courts if necessary. By adding new steps to the procurement process, one observer of the process said, the would-be contractors now have three or four new pressure points to lobby.
Mr. Bereano, who is joined as a GTECH representative by former Gov. Marvin Mandel, said he is pleased. "GTECH very much applauds the governor's action and very much welcomes this development," he said.
Control Data's vice president, Marcel Hilou, said, "We share the governor's personal interest in continuing to assure the integrity of the procurement process and keep it insulated from any semblance of favoritism. We are, however, concerned about deviating from Maryland's procurement process which since 1978 provided safeguards for maintaining integrity and public confidence. Needless to say we willcontinue to work within any established process provided by the state."
Control Data is represented in Annapolis by Alan M. Rifkin, the governor's former chief legislative aide.
Scientific Games of Atlanta, represented by Joseph A. Schwartz III, is another of the vendors. Mr. Schwartz declined to comment. A fourth vendor, General Instruments of Hunt Valley, is represented by James J. Doyle Jr., a Baltimore lawyer and veteran lobbyist in Annapolis. Mr. Doyle could not be reached for comment last night.
The Lottery Agency wants to replace its core computer and increase the number of terminals from 1,850 to 2,400. State officials say the changeover should increase revenue at a time of falling tax receipts.