Unlocking Procurement Efficiency: How Cooperative Contracts Streamline Technology Purchasing for Public Safety Answering Points
By Chris Bordnick, Vice President of Business Development at NPPGov
Major technology procurement can be a daunting process for emergency call centers traditionally called Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). Leaders must carefully evaluate all options to make the best use of taxpayer dollars while navigating a complex procurement process.
Three primary stakeholders are involved in this process: the municipality end user, the procurement department, and the vendor. Often, the PSAP is ready to decide, the vendor is eager to sell them a solution, and then they enter the procurement process. It’s the procurement officer’s job to ensure that the municipality is following the law and responsibly utilizing taxpayer funds – and they have many regulations and processes they must follow before they can approve a purchase.
To simplify the procurement process, buying cooperatives, such as NPPGov, can help save time, money, and effectively condense the procurement process benefiting all stakeholders by saving time and resources and ensuring compliance with procurement regulations.
Cooperative contracts are publicly awarded contracts that can be used by various public entities to make purchases without the need for a separate formal bid process. By leveraging publicly solicited cooperative contracts, municipalities can reduce the number of official solicitations issued each year, procurement personnel can access necessary documentation for a transparent and legally compliant process, and vendors can secure sales more efficiently.
To ensure the best possible deal while remaining compliant with procurement regulations, PSAPs should consider the following factors:
- Leverage Cooperative Contracts: Utilizing cooperative purchasing allows agencies to procure goods and services through a contract that has already been competitively bid and awarded to a vendor.
- Present Cooperative Purchasing Early: Introducing cooperative purchasing early in the sales process allows the agency to evaluate the benefits of using a cooperative contract, including understanding contracted pricing and learning about the publicly awarded contract.
- Ensure Contracted Pricing Compliance: Vendors must quote according to the awarded agreement. The appropriate contracted pricing ensures compliance with the cooperative contract and maximizes agency benefits.
- Provide Proper Documentation: Transparent documentation is crucial to ensure that procurement is done above board and to avoid legal issues. Vendors should provide all necessary contract documents to the PSAP.
- Communicate with Procurement: Open communication between the vendor and procurement personnel can help prevent misunderstandings and delays in the purchasing process.
- Understand Local Procurement Policies: PSAPs must know local procurement policies and ensure they comply when using cooperative contracts.
When deciding whether to use a cooperative contract, PSAPs should consider their municipality’s purchasing threshold. If the cost of the desired product or service is below the threshold, a simple purchase order or P-card may be used. However, if the cost exceeds the threshold, a formal bid process or a cooperative contract must be utilized.
To use a cooperative contract, the PSAP must become a member of the buying cooperative, which is typically free and straightforward. Once a member, the PSAP can piggyback off existing contracts, saving time and resources compared to the traditional Request For Proposal (RFP) process.
The procurement department plays a critical role in this process, ensuring that all contracts are legally compliant and meet the municipality’s needs. They require documentation, such as the original RFP, vendor responses, and a contract synopsis outlining the RFP process, scoring categories, and other relevant information.
In cases where procurement personnel or vendors are unfamiliar with cooperative contracts, education and communication are essential. Buying cooperatives often provide training and support to help all parties understand the benefits and requirements of using these contracts.
Utilizing cooperative contracts can significantly streamline the procurement process for Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), benefiting all stakeholders involved. By saving time and resources, and ensuring compliance with procurement regulations, cooperative contracts offer an efficient alternative to the traditional RFP process for procuring major technology purchases.