[This post is second in a two-part series on cooperative contracting. Read part one here. A version of this post originally appeared in Government Procurement.]

As I discussed in my previous post, Process and Competitiveness are essential to consider. Below, I’ll describe two more principles that are also important when you want to make the right cooperative contracting decision.

TRANSPARENCY

Another principle for public procurement professionals is maintaining transparency of the solicitation and award process. When evaluating a cooperative contract, it is important to confirm that all components of the procurement process are publicly and readily accessible. Ask yourself, “Are all the solicitation and award documents relative to the procurement process immediately available for my review on the internet without a special membership or password?” That is, can an interested party, including the public, easily review the solicitation, contract documents and all amendments online?

Standard: Utilize those cooperative contracts which are readily available for review and analysis on line by the public, along with all related solicitation and award documentation.

EXPERIENCE OF COOPERATIVE TEAM

Last, but certainly not least, the public procurement official should consider the cooperative purchasing organization (“Cooperative”) itself.

Does the Cooperative demonstrate a commitment to the profession by employing credentialed public procurement professionals? Consider also those employed by the Cooperative: do they have significant experience in public procurement, cooperative purchasing and audit procedures? Do they understand source selection, contract formation/administration and the legal aspects of public procurement?

Cooperatives providing affirmative answers to the above are better able to serve as valuable resources to you and your teams. A seasoned, professional cooperative staff truly understands and empathizes with the unique challenges of public procurement, enabling them to assist in implementing an effective cooperative procurement strategy. These Cooperatives can also provide professional oversight and consultation to ensure compliance with established procurement standards.

Standard: Utilize those cooperative purchasing organizations that employ experienced public procurement professionals and tenured cooperative purchasing team members.

Today’s public procurement professionals have the benefit of many cooperative contracts to assist them in effectively and efficiently meeting their agency’s procurement needs. They also have the access to review the documentation online. The exercise of due diligence is still the responsibility of the procurement professional, as he or she alone is accountable to his or her agency. This due diligence cannot be delegated to a third-party or an organization “certifying” that a contract is acceptable. There is no “good housekeeping” seal of approval for a cooperative contract that satisfies all the legal and procurement requirements of your agency. The due diligence review of the solicitation documents and resultant contract does not have to be laborious and overwhelming, and is certainly more efficient and effective than completing one’s own public procurement process.

If the supplier, price and quality are right, be sure to confirm that:

  • the soliciting/awarding agency was a public agency with a professional procurement staff
  • there was effective competition with limited multiple awards
  • all the contract documents (including solicitation and award documentation) are readily available online
  • the cooperative purchasing organization employs a significant number of certified public procurement professionals.

By responsibly selecting the best cooperative contracting solution for your agency, you can be confident that your agency and the public will benefit.