California bar entered $3.8M contract with ExamSoft without justifying value, auditor report says
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When the State Bar of California selected ExamSoft as the software provider for its October 2020 remote bar exam, the test was administered appropriately, but the bar did not follow a procurement policy for outside vendors, according to a state auditor report.
State agencies do not need a competitive bidding process when awarding licensing or proficiency exam contracts, but a state bar rule requires that it evaluate and document whether the contracts offer the best value for the money spent, according to the April 29 report.
The State Bar of California did not do that, “in part because the state bar was not sure whether any other vendor could meet its technical needs.” There was also no documentation for that conclusion, according to the report. It suggests that going forward, the bar should establish documentation standards and templates when using the exam exemption.
A state bar spokesperson said the agency had no comment. It did file a response to the state auditor report, and in regard to testing contracts, it agreed with the recommendation and implemented it.
“The state bar notes that the recent ExamSoft situation was unique because, due to industry consolidation and the last-minute need to adopt a remote, online exam, ultimately ExamSoft was the only vendor available for recent online administrations of the bar exam. Nonetheless, the auditor is correct that best practices must be followed at all times,” according to the response.
Three software providers were certified by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. But following various technology issues, ExamSoft was the only vendor that provided software for the October remote exam. It was offered by 20 jurisdictions, according to the NCBE.
ExamSoft entered into a five-year, $3 million contract with the California state bar in May 2020, according to the state auditor report. That was amended in August 2020, with ExamSoft agreeing to verify test-takers identities, record them while they took the test, and review the recordings for suspicious behavior—for an additional $830,000.
There were various complaints about the software crashing during the October exam, and in December, proctoring videos for more than 3,000 California bar exam applicants were flagged for testing irregularities. The state bar “ultimately found fewer than 50 violations of examination rules and policies,” according to the state auditor report.
In addition to the ExamSoft contract matter, the state auditor report found issues with the California state bar’s discipline system organization.
ABAJournal.com: “October online bar is less than a month away, and test-takers report significant software problems”