AUSTIN (KXAN) — Newly-elected Republican Party of Texas Chair Allen West told KXAN he’s “heavily concerned” with a $295 million contact tracing contract that the state awarded to a Frisco-base firm, without approval from the state legislature, which is now the source of a lawsuit facing Gov. Greg Abbott.
In an interview on Thursday, West, who opposed the statewide mask mandate to slow the spread of coronavirus, would not say whether rank-and-file Republicans have lost confidence in Abbott.
He did say, however, that “everyone” should be concerned with how the contract was awarded to MTX Group, Inc.
“You don’t have an executive branch that can go out and write a check without that legislative approval,” West said.
Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment from KXAN on Wednesday. The lawsuit was filed by five Texas Republican lawmakers in Travis County District Court on Monday, claiming Abbott violated competitive bidding laws and separation of power by awarding the contract to MTX Group, Inc.
The lawsuit claims Abbott exceeded the additional power he was granted during the COVID-19 disaster declaration.
“The first reason to invalidate the contract is that DSHS materially failed to follow competitive bidding rules in awarding the Texas-MTX contract,” the lawsuit states. “The second reason to invalidate the contract is that the Texas Constitution requires a separation of powers, and that separation leaves policy-making decisions with the Texas legislature.”
Contact tracing is the process of tracking down individuals for isolation and testing who may have come in contact with someone infected by COVID-19.
The Texas Democratic Party issued a statement calling the contract a “sweetheart” deal between Abbott and MTX Group, Inc.
“Choosing an unqualified COVID-19 contact tracing company on the same day that two Republican megadonors were hired by the company makes the corruption clear as day,” said Abhi Rahman, director of communications for the Texas Democratic Party.
The lawsuit seeks damages of $100,000 or less and “non-monetary relief and all other relief to which they may show themselves entitled.”