Procurement for Public Servants 101

For most public servants involved in purchasing and procurement , the springtime is traditionally silly-season. It’s a time for frantic spending, as the public sector rushes headlong to meet fiscal deadlines. In order to secure the same procurement budget for the coming year, public procurement officers and other government buyers typically must spend close to maximum, if not all, their budget dollars.

InterGovWorld presents Procurement for Public Servants 101, a comprehensive pointer to the many online buyer resources available to help public servants achieve efficient and effective procurement practices. It’s also an outline of some of the top priorities and issues the government is pushing through its Green Procurement agenda.

With its Green Procurement agenda, the federal government aims to
instill environmentally friendly attitudes as second nature in the
procurement process.

Accountability and transparency practices

Every year, governments across Canada at all levels spend billions of dollars on goods and services from thousands of suppliers. In the federal government alone, there are over 85 departments, agencies, Crown Corporations and Special Operating Agencies.

Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) is the federal government’s largest purchasing organization, averaging 60,000 contracts worth $13 billion annually. The Canadian Public Procurement Council (CPPC) holds a forum every year in a different city across Canada to promote dialogue, facilitate information exchange, develop approaches to common issues, and provide leadership for the resolution of shared problems related to public procurement.

Public service procurement is serious business. In 2006, the Canadian federal government introduced the Federal Accountability Act and its associated action plan, bringing forward measures to help strengthen accountability and increase transparency and oversight in government operations.

In line with this commitment, the federal government is trying to get smarter and more disciplined about how it buys goods and services. The government is also trying to ensure that with these changes, suppliers across Canada, both large and small, will continue to have fair and open access to compete for government business.

There are many tools at the disposal of public servants to put these accountability and transparency practices into reality. For federal government departments and agencies, the Government of Canada Marketplace (GoCM) is an online service allowing authorized Government of Canada employees a common point of access to an electronic catalogue of pre-approved goods and services from standing offers and supply arrangements.

Extending procurement to reach all three levels of government in Canada, a new Web site called Vendor of Record caters to the federal, provincial and municipal sectors. Produced by the publishers of CIO Government Review magazine, the Vendor of Record (VoR) online procurement directory complements the newly created federal Government of Canada Marketplace.

“In listening to and working with our government partners, we’ve heard what they’ve been demanding in terms of need,” says Fawn Annan, vice-president of publishing and events at IT World Canada Inc., creator of the directory.

“Now we’ve answered, by offering a product of added value that caters to all levels of government, while showcasing as many industry partners as possible.”

“The Vendor of Record directory is an exciting new offering because there is nothing like it in Canada. It’s a centralized point of contact to connect government with pre-approved or even non-approved IT vendors in a clear and direct way. It’s efficient, it’s effective and it’s the newest matchmaker between government and IT products and services. This is just the beginning for the Vendor of Record directory and we are looking forward to receiving feedback from all levels of government and our industry partners.”

The Vendor of Record directory (VoR) and the Government of Canada
Marketplace (GoCM) will help public servants with more accountable
and transparent procurement practices.

Buying green

From simple, tiny paperclips to complex, sprawling information systems, there are many factors to take into consideration when it comes to purchasing. Accountability and transparency awareness should be second nature, but so should practices around buying environmentally friendly products. The Office of Greening Government Operations (OGGO) at PWGSC is helping to do just that.

OGGO is promoting the new mandatory green requirements for IT products such as servers, desktops and notebooks in the federal public service. These green requirements include environmentally friendly certification, the reduction of hazardous materials, reusing and recycling design plus end-of-life management, as well as environmental stewardship in manufacturing and packaging.

A federal government-wide green procurement training course has been made available to public servants as PWGSC and the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) work together to create this free online course. “The online course is now available via the Canada School of Public Service’s Campus Direct . This course is free of charge for federal departments and agencies, and takes about two to four hours to complete,” says Elizabeth Hopkins, acting director general of OGGO.

A green procurement training course for federal
public servants, as well as OGGO’s online tools
for everyone makes green procurement easier
and practical.

Designed to help federal departments and agencies set their own green procurement targets, OGGO has launched a Web-based green procurement decision making tool , available in English and French.

As well, an online environmental awareness toolkit has been made available by OGGO, which provides information and available resources on green procurement, as well as background information on environmental issues.

This online bag of tools, also available in both languages, not only show links between procurement decisions and environmental impacts, but also describes the practical aspects of green procurement. The toolkit includes checklists, guides, principles and terminologies.

Buyer awareness

When asked what would be one of the most important tips for new buyers, Hopkins says, “Both new and seasoned buyers, as well as others responsible for procurement decisions, should reconsider the need for the purchase.”

Hopkins points out that asking such questions as, “Can consumption be reduced? Can an existing asset be refurbished or reused? Are surplus assets available that could meet the need?” can be beneficial and of value to the buyer in the procurement process.

“If the item being sought is particularly damaging to the environment, can an alternative be found that meets the need in a different way?” says Hopkins.

The impact on the environment should be considered during the planning phase, adds Hopkins, by also considering the costs incurred throughout the lifecycle of the goods and services.

“At the early stage of planning, there is a significant opportunity to make decisions that will reduce government’s impact on the environment,” she says. Also, if higher upfront costs have been identified, adds Hopkins, then a process of lifecycle analysis may identify offsets that could occur later, during the usage or maintenance phase, for example.

Visit Vendor of Record, an online directory of Canadian government procurement

Visit the Government of Canada Marketplace (GoCM) page for more information

Visit the official Office of Greening Government Operations (OGGO) web site

Visit the Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) web site

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