“Our principles are limited government, lower taxes and clear oversight,’’ said Abigail MacIver, the group’s legislative director in Florida. “If we don’t have clear oversight over state contracts, we don’t know if those taxpayer dollars are being spent well.’’
“It’s a very politically charged issue,’’ noted Brad Douglas, the former chief procurement officer for the state of Georgia.
“I found a very decentralized, bureaucratic and fragmented” process for buying state goods and services, he told the Herald/Times. He recalls how one agency had signed a contract for temporary staffing and another agency would sign a contract for the same people and pay 70 percent more.
But with every change comes pushback from the lobbying corps who work for vendors, and from the bureaucrats who feel threatened by change, he said. “It comes down to, are we trying to lower our cost or are we trying to put people to work?”
Within four years, Georgia put in place a uniform contracting process and posted an online catalog for discounted goods and services that allowed cities, counties and universities to share in the savings, Douglas said, and his office went from managing 6 percent of its contracts to 80 percent. In 2010, the arrangement saved the state $100 million, he said.
By contrast, Florida’s online contracting system, MyFloridaMarketPlace, handles only about $1 billon of the state’s contracts, Nichols said. The state also negotiates discounts for another $1.57 billion in large, state term contracts. Those numbers have improved steadily in the last six months as 23 of the state’s 30 agencies have shifted their purchases to MyFloridaMarketPlace and are realizing savings, he said.
“We’re in really good shape in terms of having a fairly open procurement process,’’ Nichols said. “The room for improvement is, once you initiate the contract, how do you manage it better?”
Atwater said the state can catch flawed and one-sided contracts if the Legislature gives his office the power to review them before they are signed. The change would require $783,363 and 11 positions, but Atwater believes the savings could be much higher.
“If we audit a contract before someone signs on the dotted line and also at the time of final payment, we can ensure that the promised goods or services were delivered at the best possible price,’’ he said.