Orange County’s online procurement system cuts costs
Orange County, Calif.’s Procurement Department has ramped up its use of technology to save money for the county and many of its cities. Through an online bid management system, the county is saving time in issuing bid materials, evaluating proposals and combining purchases with other jurisdictions to obtain better prices.
Orange County switched from an in-house bidding system that relied on manual, paper-based processes to an online e-procurement and bid management system three years ago. The eProcure system by American Fork, Utah-based BidSync allows the county to electronically create solicitations, broadcast them to vendors, and then automate the tabulation process online. The web-based system maintains the solicitations online and automates approval procedures, while offering vendors 24/7 access to open bids. The system’s vendor pool includes more than 500,000 suppliers from all over the country, which increases competition and savings for the county. Because of higher competition among vendors, BidSync reports a 20.5 percent direct savings (award vs. budget) for the county.
In the last year, Orange County has begun using the system to coordinate purchases with several cities and special districts. The county formed the Orange County Purchasing Alliance to simplify purchases among neighboring jurisdictions for many of the same types of goods and services. “The greatest benefit we have seen this past year by moving to this system is the ability to collaborate and conduct much larger bids,” says Ronald Vienna, Orange County procurement director. “We actively meet with our cities and special districts to collaborate on our purchasing and save substantially by bidding together.”
The county can use the system to notify all of the alliance members of opportunities to join bids. “This is a huge benefit that has helped propel and position Orange County to a place it wants to be — which is a regional leader in procurement,” Vienna says.
Orange County also has used the online system to review sole source purchases before contracts are issued to ensure that the county could not obtain the same items elsewhere at a lower cost. “This gives us the ability to intervene and determine whether the justifications are weak and that it is an actual sole source or that it is not a sole source,” Vienna says. “If it is not, we do not approve it, and direct the department to take it to bid.”