11 May 2009 | Martha McKenzie-Minifie
Schools on the Pacific island of Guam have been using emergency procurement procedures too often as a way of avoiding going out to bid, an external audit of their management and curriculum says.
Training on procurement was almost non-existent within the Guam Public School System (GPSS), with staff developing an informal method of buying by talking to people "in the know" - according to a report by US consultants Evergreen Solutions.
The GPSS commissioned the audit to become more effective and efficient to better deliver education to students.
News portal Guampdn.com reported the GPSS procurement division would spend this month training staff in response.
The 396-page report was written after researchers visited 13 schools on the island and surveyed staff, board members and others involved in the education sector.
In a section on procurement, it was critical of a "lack of clearly articulated" policies and procedures governing the GPSS's purchasing.
It recommended the introduction of a better system for accountability and the development of an up-to-date procurement manual. The GPSS procedures manual had not been comprehensively updated since 1994.
The audit pointed to a June 2008 report from the Office of the Public Auditor that said there was "excessive and unnecessary" use of emergency procurement and the "artificial division" of purchase orders to avoid a competitive buying process.
"Without acknowledgement of what the rules governing the process are, GPSS staff, administrators, and vendors will inevitably seek to discern the most convenient method for obtaining their needs," the audit found. "This puts the GPSS at a competitive disadvantage and makes efficient, cost-effective purchasing more difficult to attain."
To get better "buy in" from end users, it recommended a user group committee was formed to review purchasing procedures.