Town of Parker goes above and beyond purchasing policies
Purchasing policies can vary from state to state and those rules change even more on the local government level. Traci Gorman, Procurement Officer for the Town of Parker, Colorado makes certain to not only follow the rules and guidelines, but exceed them whenever possible. BidNet Direct is a staple to many public buying organizations throughout the country, including in Colorado with over 200 local governments utilizing the Rocky Mountain E-Purchasing System. Gorman is very familiar with BidNet’s e-sourcing solution as she was part of the team to help launch the use of the platform during her time at the Town of Castle Rock and she used the system at Arapahoe County before moving to the Town of Parker. Gorman explains how the BidNet Direct solution helps purchasing professionals exceed policies and guidelines through transparency, sourcing tools and features of the platform and vendor outreach.
Purchasing by “home rule”
Every local government organization has different purchasing processes, with some dictated based on state or federal procurement guidelines. However, Colorado has a “home rule” law, which allows local municipalities to remain under their own control without having outside influences. The Town of Parker follows “home rule” purchasing, as Gorman explains “we have a municipal code that drives what we can and cannot do…and that municipal code kind of drives other things.”
Gorman explains the flexibility with a home rule policy and the benefits to smaller municipalities. “It offers us a little more flexibility in a procurement policy …it says that we make our own guidelines in general, but we try to follow the State’s rules and guidelines. We follow state statutes, and we follow the FEMA guidelines when it comes to Federal dollars. So we follow those [rules], but it allows us a little flexibility in other avenues to do what's best for our agency and our community" she concludes.
Extending to procurement policy, Gorman explains “We try to follow the procurement guidelines of: it has to be competitively put out there [to bid], we need to make sure we are doing a fair and transparent process, and all of those things. And BidNet Direct’s Rocky Mountain [E-Purchasing System] offers those things for us. We have recently started using [the Purchasing Group] for some of our quoting processes as well, to reach a larger market."
Transparency in purchasing
Just meeting the required purchasing standards is not enough for Gorman, who prefers to exceed them whenever possible. This is easy with features that BidNet Direct provides, such as their advanced audit and tracking capabilities, which ensures a fair and transparent process. The BidNet Direct e-sourcing solution allows agencies to track who has viewed their solicitations, who has downloaded them, and who has downloaded any issued addenda. This allows purchasing professionals such as Gorman to evaluate their solicitation outreach and provides transparency into each vendors’ interest in responding. Gorman states that she often uses this information to find out why vendors did not respond to a solicitation. “I pull the reports for who we sent it out to originally and then how many of those actually pulled the document down, or just opened it and viewed it. We pull that report so we can reach out to some of those that did not download it and have a conversation as to 'Was there something in the document that made you uncomfortable? Was there something in the document that was unrealistic on our end that you couldn't meet?' To try and make sure that our documents are maintaining that openness and fairness to all vendors” she explains.
The Town of Parker uses the audit and tracking to receive feedback from their potential vendors and maintain a level of compliance, ensuring an equitable bid process all around. This information can also be used to plan for future solicitations and the specifications and documents used.
Going above the guidelines
Another tool Gorman utilizes to exceed their required guidelines is BidNet Direct’s bid library. Using the bid library, local government agencies such as the Town of Parker have the ability to view tens of thousands of previously posted solicitations, addenda, and awards from participating local government agencies throughout the United States.
Gorman says that it is very helpful in piggyback situations where another local Colorado agency already has a contract for the same goods or services the Town is looking to put out to bid. Many government agencies include “piggyback” language in their solicitation documents to allow other agencies the ability to use their solicitation process to enter into an agreement for goods/services with the awarded vendor/firm. This saves time and costs associated with issuing the solicitation on their own. Gorman explains that the bid library helps, even if the matching solicitation does not explicitly state that it can be used by other agencies. She provides an example stating “we are looking to piggyback off a solicitation with another small agency that's just down the road from us that is another home rule agency. It allowed me to go in and look at their documents and find that they did not have any piggyback language in it so that when I called them, I could talk to them about 'would you be willing to submit a letter to us allowing us to use your process?' So [the searchable bid library] gives me a little bit of information up front before I reach out and contact them." The system also opens up the lines of communication between agencies to discuss volume buying power by consolidating their purchases into a cooperative solicitation. If two agencies within miles of each other are purchasing the same product, why not consolidate and get better pricing?
In addition to using the library for possible piggyback bids, the bids posted within the library can also be used by other agencies as examples to assist them in creating their own solicitation if necessary. The feature saves local government organizations time and money by potentially providing language that works, and the ability to see what doesn’t. This also allows Parker to possibly piggyback off of already awarded bids for similar goods/services.
Gorman has seen firsthand how features such as the reporting, tracking, and bid library can streamline the Town’s purchasing processes. It is a benefit to both vendors and local government purchasing teams to continue to expand the number of participating local agencies utilizing the platform for bid and vendor management. As of May of 2018, 212 local government agencies are using the Rocky Mountain E-Purchasing System, with new vendors registering daily and local agencies joining to streamline purchasing. Gorman explains why talking about the Town’s experience is a win for everyone, “Helping other agencies find out about [the Purchasing Group] is only going to benefit my agency, the other agencies, and the vendors as well.”