Twelve years after switching from paper to electronic, the state Department of Transportation is changing its bid process again, this time to a web-based approach, for road and bridge projects.
The South Dakota Transportation Commission, whose responsibilities include approving several hundred millions of dollars of work each year for hundreds of miles of highways, learned about the latest version during a meeting Thursday.
“We’re hoping later this summer we’ll be introducing the new system,” Sam Weisgram, a department official, told commissioners.
The department used software that contractors downloaded from the department’s central website. But computer advances expanded the variety of browsers and operating systems, making the system more and more difficult to support.
Two years ago, the department started moving toward a web-based bidding process that coordinated with its various internal systems, according to Weisgram. Testing is set to start May 30. The hope, he said, is going to the new system in middle or late summer.
“It should be a good thing for everybody,” Weisgram said.
Commissioner Ralph Marquardt of Yankton had many questions. One was whether the department would own the new system.
Weisgram said the department and the state Bureau of Information and Telecommunications looked at other states’ systems. “Everybody is moving toward web-based,” he said.
“We went dang-near from the stone age to the modern age,” Marquardt said about the 2006 change.
BIT oversees security. “It’s very stringent,” Weisgram said.
He explained that DOT involved third-party security from 2006 to about 2010, when “a hack” compromised the DOT system and put the company out of business.
“I don’t feel we’re real vulnerable,” Weisgram said.
Marquardt asked if DOT’s system could be hacked. That’s when Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist joined the conversation.
“I don’t know if there’s any system that’s 100 percent foolproof,” Bergquist said.
Bergquist acknowledged good-naturedly that BIT “drives us crazy sometimes.” But, he added, “I’m very comfortable with them being the protector.”
“I didn’t realize we had taken that security in-house,” Marquardt replied. “What I’m saying is we need to feel very comfortable with that before we move from this step to that step.”
Commissioner Larry Anderson of Canton asked how a bidder could take advantage of a hack. Bergquist said a bid could be crafted to get just under other bidders.
“You can submit as many bids as you want,” Weisgram said. The software asks each time whether the bidder wants to override a previous bid that was submitted.
Debarment, collusion charges and other possible penalties are available if a violation is found, because most projects are federally funded, Weisgram said.
Bergquist said Friday night the rough estimate of the final cost is $80,000. He said BIT is basing the charge on hours on the project.