Long-time public procurement director Steve Gordon is sold on the value of cooperative purchasing for government agencies. “Cooperative procurement is a tremendous tool and it frees an enormous amount of time for buyers to perform procurement tasks.” Gordon adds that cooperative programs help to cut and compress the buying cycle time.

Gordon has more than 40 years of experience in public procurement and contract management, including stints as director of procurement in the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (Tenn.) and Alexandria, Va. He’s also administered university academic programs in public procurement in Virginia. He’s currently managing member of Public Procurement Strategies, LLC. The firm works with participants and stakeholders in public procurement and contract management to advance the strategic contribution of the purchasing function in local, state and federal agencies.

Gordon, says public buyers thinking of purchasing through a cooperative agreement need to do their homework. “Buyers need to do their research and analysis both before they decide to use a cooperative contract and before they choose which contract their agency is going to use.”

In interviews he’s conducted with officials at large public procurement agencies, Gordon has found that procurement teams tend to focus their research on price and cost-savings and not enough analysis of other factors that should be considered, such as whether the agency can add its own unique terms and conditions to the contract. “Procurement agents need to approach this very carefully, because there’s a lot more that needs to be considered before relying on a cooperative contract in the acquisition process,” Gordon says.

Gordon urges procurement directors to be prepared when government watchdogs come calling. “The time will come when you are going to have auditors asking why your department did not engage in rigorous analysis. The question the auditors will ask: Were the buyers just lazy or were they arbitrary and capricious?”

Gordon suggests buyers assemble a detailed documents file when they are contemplating a cooperative buy, just as they would for any formal bid, RFP or proposal. That documents file, plus meticulous and documented analysis, will please the auditors and help agencies avoid vendor bid protests, Gordon believes. By taking these steps, procurement directors can say: I have made the best possible procurement decision, he says.

To avoid procurement disasters, Gordon urges public buyers to communicate intensively with using agencies. “Unless it’s just patently obvious, we should seek to engage in conversation with the requesting customer to be sure that we have a full and complete understanding of what they are trying to get done.”

Gordon offers a technology acquisition as an example. “In most cases it may just be a simple commodity buy, but in other cases, somebody might want to come in and buy a traditional hardware-software technology solution, when the real solution might be software as a service--the cloud in other words.” Gordon says that for prospective buys where there is any significant level of risk, the procurement team needs to be sure that what is bought is responsive to the need.

Gordon says the universe of cooperative procurement programs is quite large. “We are now to the point where we have cooperative procurement programs that are housed in 60 or 70 different organizations. They could be affiliated with associations, educational institutions or private corporations.”

Gordon predicts that some smaller cooperative organizations will be combined or merged in the future. “I think we’ll see more consolidation in this next phase.” He also sees a time when there will be individual coops that specialize in certain items within specific states or cities. “We are headed to a scenario where instead of all the coops offering pretty much the same portfolios, we are headed toward coops’ offering specialized portfolios,” Gordon says. He adds, “This could happen 20 to 30 years down the road, or it may take place much quicker than that.”

Readers can reach Gordon at this site: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephen-b-gordon-ph-d-fnigp-cppo-87a86b20/. Gordon’s e-mail address is: StephenBGordon@comcast.net.

Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. Contact: michael.keating@informa.com.



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