Most state and local government procurement agencies have never had the resources or time to perform their function fully. This historical challenge is spiking as state and local governments move into the “new normal,” where they must operate and deliver services with significantly reduced budgets. No matter how many cost avoidances and efficiencies state and local procurement agencies have achieved for their entities, back-of-the-house functions like procurement likely will remain a lower priority in future budgets. As much as those of us in state and local procurement want to believe that all state and local elected officials and senior managers recognize the strategic value of procurement, is not true across the board. Yet, we do have options.
The increased riding of third-party master agreements facilitated by national and regional “cooperative procurement” groups has markedly freed procurement staff to engage in more value-added activity. However, it has not freed as much capacity as will be needed to sustain and enhance the strategic contribution of state and local procurement in the “new normal.” In the new normal, state and local elected officials, senior managers, and procurement officials will have to consider deeper levels of collaboration such as “true (joint-solicitation) cooperative procurement” and “consolidated procurement.”
Riding national or regional master agreements is a proven successful practice that secures more favorable pricing and frees procurement agencies’ staff capacity for other activities, but it does not offer as many benefits as true cooperative procurement or consolidated procurement. Among the additional benefits of these two deeper forms of intergovernmental collaboration is the ability to leverage committed large-scale buying power to mitigate the possibility of interrupted supply and to assure reasonable pricing during widespread emergencies.
Additionally, true cooperative procurement creates more-sizeable cost-avoidances, increases staff efficiencies, and generates all the benefits that accrue from increased sharing of information, ideas, and experiences. In years past, these two arrangements would not have been as practicable, but the technology and the professionalism that now exist in state and local procurement make them viable options now.
Model enabling authority to engage in true cooperative procurement and collaborative procurement has been available since the development of The American Bar Association’s Model Procurement Code for State and Local Governments forty years ago. Does your state or local entity’s procurement code or ordinance contain this enabling authority? Of equal importance, do you, your colleagues, and your senior managers and elected officials have the will to engage in these timelier arrangements.
Steve Gordon is a longtime veteran of the public procurement arena. His primary focus in retirement is on helping those individuals who struggle with loneliness, anxiety, and depression.