The state Corrections Department alleges the company providing food to state departments, Houston-based Sysco, has breached its contract with the state.
According to the department, Sysco has violated five areas of the contract, including provisions dealing with pricing, reporting of out of stock items, and lack of communication on specials and deals.
Sysco signed a contract with the state of Oklahoma in October 2009 to provide food for 181 state entities until August 2015.
State Purchasing Director Scott Schlotthauer sent a letter Dec. 16 to Sysco asking the company to respond to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services within five business days with a plan of action on how the company will resolve the issues.
The letter states that if Sysco fails to respond in the time allotted, the state may use a third-party auditor to review the contract all the way back to its inception in 2009.
Mike Bennett, vice president of sales for Sysco's Norman facility, said they have received the letter and passed it along to the company's corporate offices in Houston.
Charley Wilson, spokesman for Sysco's corporate offices, said the letter did arrive at their Houston offices and has been forwarded to their legal department.
“We're reviewing the points within the letter and will address them with good faith with appropriate agencies within the state of Oklahoma,” Wilson said.
In October after similar concerns by the state Corrections Department, Wilson said that perishable items such as poultry and produce can vary in price during specific times of the year because of demand and market conditions.
The differences in prices were first discovered through a data collection program created and operated by inmates at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington.
The program initially was developed to monitor inmates during chow time.
By entering each inmate in a computer system as they receive their food, corrections employees hoped to catch prisoners who were getting back in line and receiving a second meal.
Oklahoma Corrections Department spokesman Jerry Massie said the program has been in place at Joseph Harp for close to two years.
As part of the data collection, the inmates also gathered information on the quantities and pricing of food their facility receives from Sysco.
Different prices for the same product delivered to both Joseph Harp and the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center next door caused the department to take a closer look at prices being paid at other facilities, Massie said.
They applied the program to all of the state's medium- and maximum-security facilities, and additional breaches in the contract were discovered, Massie said.
Massie said they are waiting to see how Sysco responds before deciding if it will be necessary to apply the program to the remaining prisons in the state.
John Estus, spokesman for OMES, said officials are hopeful Sysco will respond appropriately.
“We appreciate the Corrections Department's assistance in providing oversight of the contract and expect the vendor will remedy the issue quickly,” Estus said.