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In the United States, procurement of goods and services for local, state and federal governmental entities is regulated by statute. A state procurement office is the central location for procurement, and is charged with enforcing compliance with the statues and procedures of that particular locality. In some areas, this office is the central point of procurement, while in other states, the process is more decentralized and the state office operates in an advisory capacity.
While the statutes in each state may vary, there are some common similarities. In order to ensure competitive pricing and due diligence, contracts over a certain dollar amount are required to be advertised by the state procurement office. This is generally done on the Internet, in local newspapers, or both. For smaller contracts the state procurement office responsible for that agency is usually allowed to solicit a small number of bids.
Each state procurement office operates as the central information and oversight center for statutory compliance. Some may offer training about the bid process for small and disadvantaged businesses, while others open this training to any interested entity. Compliance officers within the department are responsible for conducting audits and investigating complaints about procurement practices. They may also coordinate with the State Attorney General’s office, providing advice, guidance and assistance to agencies on procurement laws, rules and court decisions. The state procurement office is also responsible for selling or reallocating surplus government property.
Businesses who would like to contract with a state are required to be registered, to obtain a Certificate of Good Standing from the licensing agency, and to meet certain basic qualifications. Rules may vary between jurisdictions, but most states require vendors to have non-discrimination policies, comply with state labor laws, and carry liability insurance for their employees. In some instances, companies may be required to be bonded, or meet state trade licensing mandates. If a company is bidding on a large contract, such as a construction job, it may be required to provide data proving its financial stability.
In 1993, the Western States Contracting Alliance (WSCA) was formed by the state procurement office directors of fifteen Western states. The purpose of this organization was to allow participation in multi-state purchases, enabling government agencies to buy at a larger volume and thereby obtain more competitive pricing. The membership includes the top procurement officer of each state, or his designee; however all governmental entities, including counties and municipalities, from both member and non-member states are welcome to use the approved purchasing agreements.
Like the United States, Canada has separate procurement offices for each province. Information about vendor opportunities is listed with each office as well as on MERX, a national Canadian database used by federal, provincial and municipal entities. In Australia, these provincial offices are referred to as state procurement boards. They were established to provide the government with an independent oversight office to ensure fairness and equity in bidding, to provide a forum for creative options, and to disseminate opportunities to a large segment of the business population.
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