Magazine article Government Finance Review

A Guide to On-Line Purchasing Information

Magazine article Government Finance Review

A Guide to On-Line Purchasing Information

Article excerpt

Government officials understood the importance of buying well-made products for the best price long before Vice President Gore smashed an ashtray with a $500 hammer on "The Late Show with David Letterman." For decades, organizations such as the National Association of State Purchasing Officials (NASPO), the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP), and the National Association of Purchasing Management (NAPM) have provided governments with information to improve their procurement process. The associations' information, however, is being presented in new ways, thanks to the prevalence of the Internet. In addition, as World Wide Web home pages become de rigueur for most organizations, more and more governments are providing vendors and other jurisdictions with purchasing information electronically.

Assistance for the Purchasing Officer

Each of the associations noted above has a home page on the Web, all of which provide information concerning membership services, education and training programs, publications and/or services offered, and other related information. In addition to this general information, each site offers specialized information to its on-line visitors, as described below. (The addresses for all Web sites described in this article appear in the accompanying side bar.)

The NASPO site offers a vendor's guide for doing business with states and a directory of state purchasing officials. A section on procurement reform offers an on-line copy of the report Buying Smart: State Procurement Reform Saves Millions, a joint publication of NASPO and the National Association of State Information Resource Executives (NASIRE). This report also can be accessed via the publications section of NASIRE's site (http://www.nasire.org). A database of recycled products, developed and maintained by the Florida Department of Management Services with funding from NASPO and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is available at no charge (as of mid-March) to users who register.

The NIGP site offers a technical solutions section where on-line visitors can view or download a matrix that compares the features of several automated purchasing management software packages. A page of related links provides connections to several government purchasing or procurement divisions, including 26 states and some federal agencies, universities and school districts, counties, and cities. Another list provides links to such organizations as the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, which is an international organization based in Lincolnshire, England, representing purchasing and supply chain professionals; purchasing cooperatives in Florida and southeastern Virginia; and other resource centers for governments.

NAPM offers an on-line training course in public-sector purchasing. The four-week course was designed to give a broad introduction to pubic procurement. Students read 30 pages of the textbook per week plus supplementary readings, interact with other participants via e-mail, and prepare a written assignment and/or case study. The course will be offered again in the summer of 1997. Information on the on-line education course is found in the products and seminars section of the NAPM home page.

Purchasing Performance Measures. In addressing the issue of efficiency of the purchasing function, a task force of President Clinton's Management Council issued a report entitled "Measuring Up: Procurement Performance Measures and a Best Practices Campaign for a World Class Acquisition System." Although the report is directed at federal-level agencies, it can be applied to the state/provincial and local government purchasing process. Fifty-four possible measures, divided into 17 categories, are provided for agencies to consider adopting. Purchasing officials and others can access this report on-line.

On-line Activities in the States

Many states offer on-line access to their purchasing divisions. …

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