State purchasers urged to get tough with suppliers

4 September 2002
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05 September 2002 | David Arminas

California's recent debacle over IT procurement shows that US state government purchasers should demand more definite information about benefits from their IT systems and software suppliers, according to a US purchasing leader.

Denise Lea, president of the National Association of State Procurement Officials, and head of procurement for the state of Louisiana, said government purchasers have been seen as pushovers by some IT sellers and this must stop.

She told SM: "We have to be aware of all their tactics to sell, and respond by making our decision based on facts. If being tougher means demanding from IT suppliers more concrete evidence about paybacks and timescales, then we should."

California axed the agency that contracted Oracle for a $95 million IT deal after an independent audit concluded it would cost taxpayers an extra $41 million.

The state also ruled out no-bid contracts, such as the Oracle deal, for work worth more than $100,000.

"In California, it would appear that the IT department was handling the procurement," said Lea.

"In Louisiana, the chief IT information office is a technical adviser although the contract is handled by the procurement department. But it's important that we work in concert, taking advantage of what value each group can bring to a project."

John Scowen, vice-chairman of the Society of Purchasing Officers in Local Government, said Lea's warning comes as many local government purchasers are looking at IT for e-procurement projects.

"We will need to be tough about payback and savings, as many IT and e-procurement suppliers are still not sure themselves about how exact they can be on this," Scowen told SM.


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