Co-ops can provide small agencies with expertise and transparency
Harold (Hal) Good believes cooperative purchasing will grow in importance in public purchasing. He has over 30 years of experience in public and private procurement, e-commerce and supply chain management, including stints as director of procurement and contracting in Frederick County Md., and Palm Springs, Calif.
“I think cooperative buys are definitely the wave of the future, as resources get tighter. This notion that every government agency should compete everything on its own doesn’t work, because agencies don’t have enough staffers, and the personnel may not have the knowledge and background to understand the complexities of the technologies they are buying now,” Good tells GPN.
Good says lean staffing exists in procurement departments and in agency’s using departments. Previously, using departments often commented on or developed the specifications for specialized equipment and other technology buys, Good says. But in 2018 agencies may not have the trained personnel who can develop quality specifications.
Larger buying agencies are coming to the rescue, often serving as the lead agency on a cooperative contract, Good says. “More and more, it’s going to revert to the larger agencies, the more sophisticated and advanced ones that have the resources to put together an intelligent bid document or RFP. They will be doing that on behalf of the smaller agencies or on behalf of everybody to capitalize on the volume, pricing and services that are available by doing it through a cooperative contract.”
For example, Good says Fairfax County, Va.; Los Angeles County, Calif.; and Tucson, Ariz are serving as lead agencies on cooperative purchasing contracts for leading cooperative organizations. “These are all agencies that have experts in using departments. They also have a lot of expertise and experience. To a large extent, there aren’t that many agencies that have that expertise. A relatively small number of agencies have been developing the bulk of these larger contracts that are being used in cooperative buys.”
Good believes transparency is the most important best practice that cooperative organizations can adhere to. He says all the larger cooperatives have total transparency. “These organizations show their competitive documents, whether it is a bid or an RFP. You can see what it was, you can see who responded, and you can see the whole thing right there in public,” Good tells GPN.
“The whole transparency issue translates into doing your cooperative procurement with somebody you know and trust, that is going to follow the rules in a fair and open competition with transparency. That is key,” Good tells GPN.
Good says the big national coops will continue to thrive. “National coops will be especially valuable in the future for buying things like specialized software, etc., where it’s just so sophisticated that it really takes someone who knows IT and the use of the IT products and software to put the specs together.” Good says there are probably very few agencies that can assemble the needed specifications for major IT transactions.
He believes that national coops can help ensure that agencies get best value on massive IT buys. “Through cooperative agreements, smaller agencies can gauge how the software or hardware is performing in the larger or lead agency before the small agency commits to buy, lease or subscribe on its own,” Good tells GPN.
Good continues to support the public procurement profession. He has served on NIGP’s national board and has been a member of NIGP throughout his career. He directs social media for the Pennsylvania chapter of NIGP, the Pennsylvania Public Purchasing Association (PAPPA). Good owns the Procurement Pros group on LinkedIn. The by-invitation-only group has 2,418 members.
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org