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Source : Screenshot via NASPO on YouTube
January 30, 2021
Author : Alex Bustillos
The National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) ValuePoint Contract Leads 2021 conference will be discussing challenges and opportunities related to the coronavirus pandemic as well as growing concerns over cybersecurity.
NASPO is a non-profit association established in 1947 “dedicated to advancing public procurement through leadership, excellence, and integrity.” The organization is made up of directors from central purchasing offices in every state, Washington, D.C., and all U.S. territories. Through its ValuePoint arm, NASPO works on cooperative purchasing to help facilitate public procurement solicitation.
“Over the last eight months, procurement officials have been faced with unprecedented procurement issues from contracting and production to inventory, warehousing, and distribution,” reads the coronavirus panel description. Accordingly, the aim is to help people understand the impact on supply chains, understanding delivery processes, identify risks and resolutions from emergency contracting, and to soak in lessons learned in the past year.
A 60-minute session on cyber security will discuss government data information security and the implications it has for procurement and contracting. You can read more about what this event will entail here.
On NASPO’s most recent podcast, NASPO chief procurement officer for D.C. and 2020 President George Schutter said “under Covid, the mayor, with a lot of foresight, consolidated all procurement of goods and services needed for Covid with the chief procurement officer and through that emergency operations center. So the structure we had in place worked well,” he explained.
But it was different than what the structure was meant to support, Schutter explained, because they weren’t dealing with a snow storm for a few days, they were dealing with a months-long pandemic. “Centralising the acquisition of needs in the jurisdiction, I think was really important in order to focus on getting those needs accomplished.”
Schutter continues: “One difference here with Covid was that in a typical emergency operation center establishment for a couple of days, we would deploy contracting officers to engage there. We did the same in this emergency however because of the size and the scope and needing call centers, needing to acquire hotels for quarantine sites, needing to get decontamination units for the fire and emergency management, needing personal protective equipment for our police and those that are engaging with residents, we were able to use the network… of those chief contracting officers.”
While Schutter explains that D.C. was reasonably equipped to deal with this chaos, some states did not have such an easy time.
In Michigan, a report from an auditor detailed a “lack of emergency procurement policies and procedures on the state’s part prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the use of shared procurement cards to make purchases,” making it vulnerable to fraud.
In the early days of the pandemic in Utah standard procurement rules were suspended allowing millions to go out in no-bid contracts. Per the Salt Lake Tribune: “the rationale for some of Utah’s no-bid purchases has proven elusive at times during the pandemic, with state auditors reporting that a flurry of spending and technology happened through verbal negotiations and approvals with a minimal paper trail.
“In the case of a controversial hydroxychloroquine purchase, state auditors couldn’t even determine who approved spending $800,000 on the malaria drug that had been touted by then-President Trump as a treatment to COVID-19,” the outlet reported.
In Pennsylvania, one county is overhauling its procurement policies “in the wake of a failed COVID-19 antibody testing program that is now the subject of an $11 million county lawsuit.” The company contracted had “no track record in diagnostic testing.”
California faced similar challenges with “untested vendors,” according to another report, which details how among the hundreds of vendors that contracted with California or came close to doing business with, some had been previously raided by the FBI, fined for fudging their financials, or had literally just set up shop.
Few government officials would disagree that 2020 was an utter mess for procurement. It’s good to see NASPO stepping up to help clear through this madness.