Editor’s Note: In the October 2002 issue of Government Procurement, contributing editor, Paul R. Ghere, wrote of the similarities and differences in procurement communities in the article, “Public and Private Sector Purchasing: One Purchaser’s Perspective.” Following are readers’ responses to the article plus a rebuttal from Ghere.
I enjoyed your article in the October issue of Government Procurement. The difference (and similarities) between private and public purchasing is an interesting topic and one that is often discussed concerning many different issues. Unfortunately, all of my 30-plus years of experience are in public procurement. However, I have a couple of comments from my perspective.
I’m discouraged when public-procurement officials blame the law for their poor performance. The laws can be changed. This is reflected in the ABA’s Model Procurement Code and efforts of many jurisdictions. Increasingly, CEOs (e.g., city managers, county administrators, etc.) are demanding that public-procurement officials be more responsive to value-based purchasing and customer needs, less process driven, more proactive, etc.
As you know, we (the National Purchasing Institute) are trying to capture many of these issues in the criteria of the Achievement of Excellence (AEP) in Procurement award program. Mr. Ghere’s organization, East Bay Municipal Utility District, is a three-time winner of the AEP.
—Wayne Casper, C.P.M., Dept. of Procurement, City of Tucson, AZ
Speaking as a colleague with 30 years of experience, certified by UCLA, and a former employee of East Bay M.U.D., I would like to congratulate Mr. Ghere for his accurate representation of the nuances between the public and private sectors.
—Paul L. Como, Procurement and Materials, Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (TX)
If you believe that the “public sector simply makes decisions based on selection of the lowest responsible bid,” you are badly misinformed and I question the appropriateness of this article in a public purchasing magazine. For your information, most public purchasing sectors are heavily involved in best-value procurements and various other negotiated requirements that are far beyond simply selecting low bids that you may have been accustomed to during your career in public contracting.
By the way, when were you last in public purchasing—the 1890s?
—Johnny Richardson, CPPO, CACM, Orange County (FL) Government Purchasing and Contracts Div., Orlando, FL
Paul R. Ghere’s Rebuttal: Mr. Richardson is right on target. Many public agencies are not confined to “low bid” purchasing decisions. Such decisions are just not appropriate as they relate to professional service contracts, agreements that involve significant technology expenditure, and many other areas. Unfortunately, as it relates to material and supply acquisitions, many municipalities, school districts, special districts, cities, counties, etc. are subjected to laws and ordinances that continue to require this decision standard.
This is why, as noted in Mr. Casper’s comment, that I encouraged my professional peers to continually fight to change laws that hinder us from protecting the public interest and trust as efficiently as we might otherwise be able to do if such laws did not compromise our professional competency.
I’m sorry that Mr. Richardson failed to recognize the point of the article, which was to identify some of the reasons public and private sector purchasing are different by nature, while recognizing that neither is more or less difficult than the other. He chose rather, to focus on one comment and value the entire article accordingly. This is his right, and I respect that.