A 2014 survey conducted by Government Procurement magazine revealed that 47 percent of public agencies see their use of cooperative purchasing increasing over the next three years. Despite that outlook, some states have passed — or are seeking to pass — laws limiting cooperative purchasing agreements.

For example, earlier this year, Maryland attempted to pass a bill that would have prohibited school districts from procuring construction services through cooperative purchasing. The National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA), a public agency that provides cooperative solutions to assist government and education entities as they strive for efficient public service, worked to defeat this bill (SB515) through grassroots efforts and legislator education. The group succeeded; the bill did not receive a final vote in the House and was not passed. Because this legislation was thwarted, cooperative purchasing remains a tool for school districts in Maryland to maximize their taxpayer dollars in procuring needed construction and repair services.

Maryland is not alone. In a number of other states, similar bills have passed and been subsequently overturned. As more states consider this type of legislation, it is clear there is a need for a united voice in the industry. The National Coalition for Public Procurement (NCPP) was formed to serve as that united voice on advocacy issues such as these that have the potential to impact the industry. It supports a procurement process that is open and transparent consistent with public disclosure laws. In fact, cooperative purchasing agencies joining NCPP must agree to abide by the organization’s Standards of Excellence and Professional Conduct.

It is the Coalition’s stance that cooperative purchasing benefits everybody. It gives entities another resource to ensure they are getting the best price, quality and service for the taxpayer’s dollar. Cooperative contracts reduce the administrative burden of time and resources, and they offer the opportunity for greater efficiency and economies of scale in acquiring goods and services — both of which save money.

Bills that limit cooperative purchasing in favor of one or two companies are a detriment to the states in which they are passed. To ensure similar bills are not passed in other states, and to protect the right for entities to have the ability to utilize cooperative purchasing, NCPP is staying abreast of proposed bills. It will create grassroots action when necessary, and it will form and maintain relationships with legislators, making sure they are educated on the benefits of cooperative purchasing.

The Coalition is not interested in mandating entities to use cooperative purchasing contracts, but it wants cooperative purchasing to remain an option for entities to apply if they choose. The organization strives to offer transparent information to educate those in the industry on this type of efficient purchasing so they can make the choice that best fits their needs. With cooperative purchasing limited, that choice is removed.

Ensuring the appropriate use of public dollars is one of, if not the, main goal of public procurement professionals. The organizations that make up NCPP joined forces so public procurement professionals can continue to ensure the appropriate use of those dollars. We believe wholly in this cause and will fight the necessary fight to ensure cooperative purchasing remains viable.

Marc Selvitelli, CAE, is the executive director of the National Coalition for Public Procurement. Its members include cooperative purchasing organizations, suppliers, professional associations, nonprofit agencies, education facilities, public procurement practitioners and state and local governments. For more information on NCPP, including how to become a member, visit www.publicprocurementcoalition.org.

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