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What can states do to modernize the way they buy goods and services? Here are the recommendations and best practices from the National Association of State Procurement Officials.
Legislative and executive branches in states across the country are facing a new challenge: how to modify and streamline purchasing systems. In its simplest form, we are talking about how states buy goods and services.
Sounds simple enough, but too often across the country, billions of dollars are at stake when state purchasing is conducted through a stove-piped method of legacy systems, old technologies and obsolete procedures.
Procurement must be seen as an opportunity to reduce waste and increase efficiency in state government. To provide a framework for how to move forward, the National Association of State Procurement Officials has released guidelines and best practices. NASPO’s seven principles of state purchasing provide a consistent direction that states can follow to create efficient, modern and cost-effective purchasing processes:
- Single Procurement Manager at an Executive Level
All states should appoint a Chief Procurement Official at a cabinet level with responsibility for policy-making and oversight and management of the full spectrum of procurement functions. The Chief Procurement Official should have responsibility for the promulgation of rules and establishment processes and procedures to meet changes in the needs of the state.
- Delegation of Authority
While full authority for all procurement functions of the state should rest with the Chief Procurement Official, delegation of procurement authority to agencies that employ highly skilled procurement professionals should be considered.
- Enterprise Approach to Acquisition
States should employ an enterprise-wide approach to procurement by engaging in strategic acquisition planning and continued support through the procurement cycle including contract administration.
- Comprehensive Procurement Law
Legislative branches must enact procurement laws that clearly dictate policy through high-level descriptions of correct procurement structure and process
- eProcurement Systems
eProcurement systems should be implemented or plans to implement them should be developed immediately. eProcurement reduces cost, increases return on investment, and necessitates the use of data-driven analyses.
- Skilled Procurement Professionals
Highly skilled and qualified procurement professionals must be engaged at every phase of the procurement process to ensure success. Procurement should be recognized at all levels of state government as a specialized profession with a designated skill set. Certifications and training in procurement should be pursued for those employees whose responsibilities include purchasing.
- Information Technology
New technologies are constantly evolving which foster innovation, creativity and flexibility in purchasing. Authority for IT acquisitions should reside with the Chief Procurement Official; however, IT procurement must include IT technical staff, procurement professionals, project management professionals, and cooperation among all relevant agencies.
There is certainly no panacea to the myriad problems cause budget shortfalls: lower property values, low oil prices, high unemployment, and others. But streamlining purchasing can’t be ignored any longer. State governments simply cannot waste money, before their leaders can begin to address how to balance their budgets.
DeLaine Bender is the Executive Director of the National Association of State Procurement Officials.