Co­op­er­a­tive Gov­ern­men­tal Pur­chas­ing: What You Need to Know

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While not as well-known as it should be, co­op­er­a­tive gov­ern­men­tal pur­chas­ing of­fers a way for mul­ti­ple lev­els of gov­ern­ment agen­cies to work to­gether on pur­chases.

Gen­eral Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion­tal/cat­e­gory/100739

Many know the U.S. Gen­eral Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion (GSA) for its role in pro­vid­ing a means for pre-qual­i­fy­ing ven­dors and their re­lated prod­ucts and ser­vices. By do­ing so, it makes it eas­ier for all fed­eral gov­ern­ment agen­cies to buy off-the-shelf prod­ucts and ser­vices with­out the need to have them ap­proved each time a new order comes up. It also helps pre-ne­go­ti­ate ar­range­ments with th­ese ven­dors so oth­ers do not have to.

Un­der the GSA’S Co­op­er­a­tive Pur­chas­ing Pro­gram, more than just fed­eral agen­cies can ben­e­fit from the GSA’S hard work in de­vel­op­ing the rightly-famed “GSA Sched­ules.” State, lo­cal and tribal gov­ern­ments can also take ad­van­tage of two very im­por­tant parts of the GSA prod­ucts and ser­vices list. Th­ese in­clude:

Sched­ule 70: This is the largest and most-of­ten-ac­cessed ac­qui­si­tion ve­hi­cle any­where within the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. It fea­tures a wide va­ri­ety of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy prod­ucts and ser­vices, in­clud­ing mo­bile de­vice and mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion man­age­ment (MDM/MAM) tools, au­to­mated data pro­cess­ing equip­ment (firmware), soft­ware, cloud com­put­ing ser­vices, hard­ware, sup­port equip­ment and pro­fes­sional ser­vices. Sched­ule 70 was also the first of the ar­eas au­tho­rized for the Co­op­er­a­tive Pur­chas­ing Pro­gram un­der the law that started this whole con­cept, as Sec­tion 211 of Pub­lic Law 107-347, the U.S. E-gov­ern­ment Act of 2002.

Sched­ule 84: This is the place to go for the pur­chase of se­cu­rity and law en­force­ment equip­ment. It fea­tures alarm and sig­nal sys­tems, fa­cil­ity man­age­ment sys­tems, fire­fight­ing and res­cue equip­ment, law en­force­ment and se­cu­rity equip­ment, marine craft and re­lated equip­ment, spe­cial pur­pose cloth­ing and re­lated ser­vices.

Be­sides Sched­ules 70 and 84, the Co­op­er­a­tive Pur­chas­ing Pro­gram op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to state, lo­cal and tribal gov­ern­ments also ex­tend to spe­cific U.S. gov­ern­ment Blan­ket Pur­chase Agree­ments (BPAS). Th­ese vary, but the fol­low­ing are some of those cur­rently avail­able:

• FSSI wire­less BPAS, with wire­less ser­vice plans and phones avail­able at no ad­di­tional cost

• The Email as a Ser­vice (Eaas) BPA

• The Na­tional In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Com­mod­ity Pro­gram (NITCP) BPA for IT prod­ucts such as com­put­ers, tablets, mon­i­tors, data cen­ter equip­ment and mo­bile solutions

• The Con­tin­u­ous Di­ag­nos­tics and Mit­i­ga­tion (CDM) Pro­gram – Tools and Con­tin­u­ous Mon­i­tor­ing as a Ser­vice (CMAAS) BPAS that pro­vide spe­cial­ized in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy (IT) tools and CMAAS to com­bat cy­ber threats in the civil­ian “.gov” net­works

As to who is au­tho­rized to make use of th­ese sched­ules for pur­chas­ing, the law has a clear def­i­ni­tion. Un­der 40 U.S.C. § 502 (c), “The term ‘state or lo­cal gov­ern­ment’ in­cludes any state, lo­cal, re­gional or tribal gov­ern­ment or any in­stru­men­tal­ity thereof (in­clud­ing any lo­cal ed­u­ca­tional agency or in­sti­tu­tion of higher ed­u­ca­tion).” As one might ex­pect, the term does not in­clude con­trac­tors or grantees of state or lo­cal gov­ern­ments, but con­trac­tors or grantees work­ing with state or lo­cal gov­ern­ments may want to en­cour­age their fun­ders to take ad­van­tage of the Co­op­er­a­tive Pur­chas­ing Pro­gram op­por­tu­ni­ties de­scribed be­low.

Na­tional Co­op­er­a­tive Pur­chas­ing Al­liance

A sec­ond ma­jor na­tional gov­ern­men­tal pur­chas­ing co­op­er­a­tive with ma­jor im­por­tance is the Na­tional Co­op­er­a­tive Pur­chas­ing Al­liance (NCPA).

Sim­i­lar to the GSA, the NCPA works with a lead pub­lic agency to so­licit mas­ter con­tracts cov­er­ing prod­ucts and ser­vices, their pric­ing and de­liv­ery in­for­ma­tion. Con­tracts are ap­proved based on qual­ity, per­for­mance and pric­ing.

Get­ting listed with the NCPA in­volves re­spond­ing to a com­pet­i­tive so­lic­i­ta­tion from this co­op­er­a­tive, with sealed re­sponses. The lead agency then eval­u­ates the re­sponses and rec­om­mends them for ap­proval by the NCPA.

The list of or­ga­ni­za­tions that are el­i­gi­ble to buy from the vast pur­chas­ing power of the NCPA is gi­gan­tic. There are over 90,000 agen­cies na­tion­wide that can ac­cess th­ese preap­proved con­tracts. Th­ese in­clude:

• School districts (in­clud­ing K-12, char­ter schools and pri­vate K-12)

• Higher ed­u­ca­tion (in­clud­ing uni­ver­si­ties, com­mu­nity col­leges, pri­vate col­leges and tech­ni­cal/vo­ca­tional schools)

• Cities, coun­ties and any lo­cal gov­ern­ment

U State agen­cies

U Health-care or­ga­ni­za­tions

• Churches/re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions

• Non­profit cor­po­ra­tions

It is im­por­tant to note that for the NCPA, un­like for the GSA, pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tions in the ar­eas of ed­u­ca­tion, higher ed­u­ca­tion and health care, as well as churches/ re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions and non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions of all kinds, can lever­age the buy­ing power of the NCPA.

The NCPA also points out that state laws vary in how they reg­u­late the use of co­op­er­a­tive pur­chas­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions like them. For this rea­son, it has gath­ered a very help­ful por­tal to re­search the laws ap­pli­ca­ble to each lo­ca­tion.

ESC2 Good­buy Pur­chas­ing Co­op­er­a­tive


The Good­buy Pur­chas­ing Co­op­er­a­tive is a good ex­am­ple of re­gional co­op­er­a­tive pur­chas­ing pro­grams.

It is the of­fi­cial pur­chas­ing pro­gram of the Ed­u­ca­tion Ser­vice Cen­ter, Re­gion 2. It was es­tab­lished with reg­u­la­tion un­der the Texas School Law Bul­letin, Sec. 44.031 Pur­chas­ing Con­tracts, and the Texas Gov­ern­ment Code, Ti­tle 7 In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Re­la­tions, Sec. 791 In­ter­local Co­op­er­a­tion Con­tracts. The co­op­er­a­tive’s ob­jec­tive is, as its web­site states, “to make it pos­si­ble for our mem­bers (in­de­pen­dent school districts, char­ter schools, re­li­gious-based schools), city and county gov­ern­men­tal en­ti­ties, non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions, uni­ver­si­ties and day care cen­ters to pur­chase goods and ser­vices in an ef­fi­cient, cost ef­fec­tive and com­pet­i­tive pro­cure­ment method.”

As with the NCPA, the list of mem­bers el­i­gi­ble to use the pro­gram in­cludes both gov­ern­men­tal and non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions. It is re­stricted to the Texas area de­scribed un­der the op­er­at­ing law for the group. The Good­buy Pur­chas­ing Co­op­er­a­tive also re­quires that mem­bers join the group be­fore be­ing able to buy. Those in­ter­ested in be­com­ing a mem­ber of the co­op­er­a­tive can get fur­ther in­for­ma­tion here.

Ven­dors wish­ing to be­come a part of the co­op­er­a­tive need to ap­ply and sub­mit pro­pos­als, though in a dif­fer­ent way than the pre­vi­ous two groups. The first step is to reg­is­ter as a prospec­tive ven­dor. The Good­buy Pur­chas­ing Co­op­er­a­tive will then pro­vide prospec­tive and ex­ist­ing ven­dors with e-no­ti­fi­ca­tions of bid avail­abil­ity on the cat­e­gories a reg­is­tered mem­ber se­lects. Ven­dors are placed in the cat­e­gory of Awarded Ven­dors once they sub­mit a bid and re­ceive a con­tract award from the Ed­u­ca­tion Ser­vice Cen­ter, Re­gion 2’s board of di­rec­tors. In­for­ma­tion on reg­is­ter­ing as a prospec­tive mem­ber is avail­able here.

Other Gov­ern­men­tal Pur­chas­ing Groups

With their ben­e­fits both for buy­ers and ven­dors, it is no sur­prise that there are many other or­ga­ni­za­tions sim­i­lar to the ones de­scribed above through­out the United States. With­out go­ing into the de­tails of each, the fol­low­ing are some that read­ers may be in­ter­ested in ex­am­in­ing:

Na­tional IPA™ (na­tion­ The Na­tional In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Pur­chas­ing Al­liance is based in Ten­nessee but open na­tion­ally.

U.S. Com­mu­ni­ties ™ Gov­ern­ment Pur­chas­ing Al­liance (us­com­mu­ni­ U.S. Com­mu­ni­ties, ac­cord­ing to its web­site, “pro­vides world-class gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment re­sources and solutions to lo­cal and state gov­ern­ment agen­cies, school districts (K-12), higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions and non­prof­its look­ing for the best over­all sup­plier gov­ern­ment pric­ing.” It has over­sight from pub­lic pur­chas­ing in­di­vid­u­als to help guide the op­er­a­tion. It also has no user fees to par­tic­i­pate in the group.

Ge­or­gia’s Co­op­er­a­tive Pur­chas­ing Agency is a co­op­er­a­tive buy­ing group au­tho­rized for use solely by Ge­or­gia School Sys­tems.

Iowa-based As­so­ci­a­tion of Ed­u­ca­tional Pur­chas­ing Agen­cies (AEA Pur­chas­ing) is an ini­tia­tive of the Iowa As­so­ci­a­tion of Area Ed­u­ca­tion Agen­cies (IAAEA). Its goal is to com­bine the pur­chas­ing power of Iowa schools to of­fer ag­gres­sive pric­ing on ma­te­ri­als, goods and ser­vices through a com­pet­i­tive bid process. AEA Pur­chas­ing is also a mem­ber of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Ed­u­ca­tional Pur­chas­ing Agen­cies (AEPA), a mul­ti­state non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion of ed­u­ca­tional ser­vice agen­cies that works to lever­age pur­chas­ing power to en­able all schools and agen­cies, re­gard­less of size, to pur­chase at equal buy­ing lev­els.

Min­nesota’s Co­op­er­a­tive Pur­chas­ing Ven­ture is a state-spon­sored co­op­er­a­tive es­tab­lished by Minn. Stat. § 16C.03, subd.10. It al­lows el­i­gi­ble en­ti­ties to pur­chase goods, cer­tain ser­vices and util­i­ties from con­tracts es­tab­lished by the Of­fice of State Pro­cure­ment for Min­nesota state agen­cies.

North Dakota’s state Co­op­er­a­tive Pur­chas­ing is a free ser­vice in which el­i­gi­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions can pur­chase goods and ser­vices from state con­tracts. El­i­gi­ble groups in­clude cities, coun­ties, town­ships, pub­lic schools, State Board of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, gov­ern­men­tal boards and com­mis­sions, tribal agen­cies, pub­lic tran­sit au­thor­i­ties, pub­lic health units and even non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions es­tab­lished on be­half of pub­lic en­ti­ties.

Pur­chas­ing Con­nec­tion is a pro­gram of eight ser­vice co­op­er­a­tives in Min­nesota and the North Dakota Ed­u­ca­tors Ser­vice Co­op­er­a­tive for schools, lo­cal gov­ern­ments and non­prof­its.

Ohio’s Co­op­er­a­tive Pur­chas­ing Pro­gram of­fers Ohio coun­ties, town­ships, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, school districts, pub­lic li­braries, re­gional park districts and other po­lit­i­cal sub­di­vi­sions the ben­e­fits and cost sav­ings of buy­ing goods and ser­vices through state con­tracts.

Other groups sim­i­lar to th­ese ex­ist in many states within the United States.

Why Mak­ing Use of Co­op­er­a­tive Buy­ing Groups Is Im­por­tant

For state and lo­cal gov­ern­ment agen­cies and other pur­chas­ing en­ti­ties, the abil­ity to buy items based on pre-ne­go­ti­ated vol­ume pur­chase agree­ments has

sev­eral ad­van­tages. In most cases, the ven­dors and their prod­ucts and ser­vices have all been pre­qual­i­fied in many re­spects for rea­son­able qual­ity for their in­tended pur­pose. The pric­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions are also already com­plete, avoid­ing the need for an or­ga­ni­za­tion look­ing to pur­chase stan­dard items to spend the time or re­sources needed to so­licit com­pet­i­tive bids. Buy­ing from th­ese groups can also of­ten pro­vide bet­ter pric­ing than might be avail­able to any in­di­vid­ual or­ga­ni­za­tion look­ing to buy the same goods or ser­vices.

For con­trac­tors pro­vid­ing goods or ser­vices, be­ing listed also has ad­van­tages. Be­ing on the list of preap­proved goods can pro­vide a means of reach­ing a much wider base of cus­tomers than a ven­dor might eas­ily be able to con­nect with on its own. Be­ing a listed ven­dor also means a sup­plier does not have to go through the in­di­vid­ual en­tity-by-en­tity qual­i­fi­ca­tion, bid­ding and ne­go­ti­at­ing process that of­ten burns both time and money for all in­volved.

Co­op­er­a­tive pur­chas­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions are far from per­fect solutions to ei­ther buy­ing or sell­ing, but they have enough ben­e­fits that all gov­ern­ment agen­cies look­ing for com­monly avail­able prod­uct cat­e­gories should get in­volved in them. Ven­dors sup­ply­ing stan­dard prod­ucts and ser­vices will also likely ben­e­fit by get­ting on the sup­pli­ers list of ap­pro­pri­ate co­op­er­a­tive buy­ing groups.

Prob­lems With Co­op­er­a­tive Buy­ing Groups

Co­op­er­a­tive pur­chas­ing groups can suf­fer from a lack of trans­parency and may not al­ways of­fer the best prod­uct or ser­vice for the best price.

Co­op­er­a­tive pur­chas­ing can also re­strict pur­chas­ing dol­lars to only the largest com­pa­nies and deny busi­ness to smaller com­pa­nies who might be able to sup­port lo­cal em­ploy­ment and even of­fer bet­ter val­ues.

NAPC and Co­op­er­a­tive Pur­chas­ing

In 2018, the NAPC will be rolling out a new co­op­er­a­tive pur­chas­ing pro­gram, re­verse auc­tion, sur­plus auc­tions and a bar­ter­ing sys­tem to fa­cil­i­tate the buy­ing, sell­ing and bar­ter­ing of goods and ser­vices for pub­lic and pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­di­vid­u­als.

By lever­ag­ing the NAPC net­work and our 2.5 mil­lion sup­pli­ers and data­base of over 250,000 gov­ern­ment agen­cies, we can help en­sure greater value and trans­parency.

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