We view government fulfillment as having two priorities: getting the best product for the best price and being as transparent as possible in doing so. All products and services able to be competitively bid should be bid that way, and the ability to submit a bid for a RFP should be open to any business able to fulfill the requirements of the RFP. Too often procurement managers seem to be more concerned with fulfilling the letter of their obligations while neglecting the spirit of their obligations.
It’s amazing when, after a RFP finds its way onto the RFP Database, an “uninspired” procurement manager gets upset that our site is driving more competitive bids towards the project and that it was “unauthorized”. In our view procurement managers should be going out of their way to publicize their projects and welcome new audiences to bid on their projects. These same procurement managers feel that simply posting a link to the project on some hidden corner of their agency’s website, and maybe running a 1-day advertisement in the local paper (last page!) fulfills their obligations of transparency and competitiveness. Sometimes they project disappointment when they only receive 2 bids on the project and their higher-ups assume that those are the only companies that were interested in the project. That hardly seems like the competitive process that was probably envisioned, especially if those 2 bids were from companies that were personally notified about the opportunity.
We understand that there are rules, established by elected officials in all levels of the bureaucracy, that specify how procurement should operate so as to avoid conflicts of interest and to set the bar for a competitive process. But we think it’s fair to say that the bar is set fairly low in many instances, and too often these procurement departments do the bare minimum that is required. As overheard in a recent discussion on the subject, “The procurement directors… are obliged to extract maximum juice from every single tax payers’ dollar spent“.
What this translates into is the need for a proactive procurement policy, one that actively engages and solicits feedback in the interest of getting both the best deal, but also the right final product, and one where the procurement department isn’t tasked with running each RFP as if it’s a commodity based solely on price. If procurement officers are only used in the capacity of taking the requirements from other departments and putting them into a formal document for publication, is that procurement department truly fulfilling its obligations?
For example, if a department puts out a RFP and now has a huge project running on one type of database, and a little while later another department puts out a RFP and now has their project running on a different type of database with their own set of hardware and software, has the procurement department saved the tax payers money or negotiated the best deal? Is it possible that the second project could have made use of the same database and saved the cost of licensing and additional hardware?
There is exceptional value and savings to be gained by having an active and engaged procurement process and purchasing officer. Not only will this officer help direct the organization towards a unified purchasing strategy that can potentially avoid the above situation, but in the process negotiate better pricing and purchasing through a detailed process that solicits stronger proposals. Combine this with a disbursement strategy that puts the project opportunity in front of companies, large and small, from all over the country without any artificial barriers, and you’ve accomplished the open and competitive procurement that is the supposed goal.
Open, Competitive, Transparent and Strategic should be the words that procurement departments live by.