As a purchasing agent, you’re always looking to get your fleet manager, maintenance manager or public works director the exact products and solutions they need as quickly as possible while remaining compliant with government procurement requirements. Very often, cooperative purchasing is the fastest, most effective approach.
When a department needs a fleet telematics solution, the traditional procurement process of developing a list of specs, publishing RFPs and evaluating multiple bids can drag on for many months, leading to overtime hours and impatient department heads. Cooperative purchasing contracts eliminate most of that work so your agency or institution gets what it needs sooner, at a competitive price, and you save the taxpayers money.
How does cooperative purchasing work?
In a government cooperative purchasing program, multiple government entities (state, county and municipal), and in some cases, education and nonprofit organizations, form a single entity and share pre-negotiated purchasing contracts with member organizations.
To establish these contracts, the purchasing cooperative drafts detailed solicitations based on the needs of its members, then completes a rigorous RFP process that satisfies government procurement requirements, including the rule of three. They advertise the RFPs and conduct a careful review of each proposal, including the quality of the offering and the pricing. Then they negotiate best-price contracts with high-quality suppliers and offer those contracts to their members.
Some government agencies misunderstand how the contracts come about and worry that procurement requirements have been skipped. They haven’t. The purchasing cooperative has satisfied the public solicitation or bid requirements on behalf of its members.
To protect you in case of an audit, most purchasing cooperatives provide contract documentation including the RFP, as well as competitive solicitation documentation.
It takes only a couple of minutes to become a member, and membership is free.
Benefits of cooperative purchasing
Cooperative purchasing contracts not only save you the efforts of publishing RFPs and reviewing bids, they also:
- Minimize the need for you to research vendors and products
- Save you and your end users the time spent building out specs
- Help ensure that your end users don’t miss out on desired features because they were inadvertently left out of the specs
- Eliminate RFP advertising expenses
The end users can even specify what vendor they want to purchase from.
Suppose the fleet manager comes to you after researching telematics solutions and determining that the fleet would benefit most from the CalAmp application (CalAmp’s fleet management solution) and CalAmp Vision (CalAmp’s video telematics solution), along with its EsriGIS integration. Simply find one of the purchasing cooperatives that has contracts with CalAmp and choose from the menu of offerings available through that contract — no need to even talk with other suppliers.
The contracts cover everything your end user needs now and offer the ability to add other products and services in the future. What’s more, the pricing may be better than what you’d get on your own.
Choosing the right purchasing cooperative
Consider these factors when choosing a purchasing cooperative to work with.
Is it a government agency?
Some purchasing cooperatives, such as Sourcewell, not only specialize in government procurement but are government entities themselves. That means they have a first-hand understanding of what it takes to be compliant with government rules and regulations. Plus, they can perform their own RFPs and solicitations, unlike for-profit or non-profit co-ops that have to rely on other public agencies to perform them on their behalf.
In contrast with a government purchasing co-op, some for-profit co-ops may award contracts to lower quality suppliers in addition to higher quality suppliers.
What documentation is available?
In addition to the contract itself, make sure the co-op makes readily available all of the supporting documentation you’ll want to have in the event of an audit.
What is their supplier vetting process?
Buying co-ops should not only offer a wide choice of suppliers but also a good supplier screening program. Ask for details. An effective screening program helps ensure that you end up purchasing high quality goods from a high quality supplier. Sourcewell, for example, looks not only at the breadth and depth of the supplier’s offering but also factors such as warranties and customer service.
The RFP process is incredibly time consuming, and no purchasing officer can be an expert in every type of product and service they need to purchase. Cooperative purchasing contracts are competitive, compliant and efficient. That makes them a best practice for purchasing officers looking to get the right product and the best deal.
Learn more about CalAmp's solutions for the government sector here.