One of the most important long-term responsibilities of a purchasing manager is to encourage municipal purchasing staff to take on leadership roles in procurement.
Staff training should emphasize understanding, rather than memorization, of the rules, including the reasons for them. Staff need to understand the risks that must be managed and the role the rules play in this process.
They need to be able to help client departments identify and avoid risk. Opportunity should be provided for municipal purchasing staff to have direct input into the process of ongoing rule revision.
Staff should also be encouraged to become familiar with the needs of their client departments and must develop the ability to deliver purchasing services to their departments on a timely basis.
For instance, if staff and other resources permit, a placement period of working inside the department for a few weeks, may enhance the feeling of team spirit.
One cannot overstress the importance of the purchasing manager in the ongoing process of rule review. In the fluctuating conditions of the modern economy, it is no longer sensible to treat the rules as if they were written in stone.
The purchasing manager should report to council at least annually with respect to how well the existing rules are working in practice, giving specific examples of problems and recommending specific changes that will avoid such problems in the future. To continue making the same mistake over and over again is as bad as not following the rules in the first place.
Listen to the advice from the using departments; they have direct contact with the suppliers and products. When new ideas are brought to your attention from suppliers, make sure this information gets to the correct people.
Take a personal role in the investigation of new products. Keep current with trade journals and pass on relevant ideas to the appropriate areas and departments.
I would also suggest that procurement works with all levels of government to improve upon the public procurement process.
Although prospective municipal suppliers have no direct role to play in rule compliance, any private sector entity considering bidding for government work, or entering into a contractual relationship with a municipal government or other public sector entity, needs to be aware of the following:
- All public procurement is subject to strict rules. While in some cases compliance with rules may be relaxed, no guarantee exists that this will be done.
- Most cities post their purchasing policies and procedures on their websites. Suppliers should become familiar with the municipal procurement process. By so doing, the quality of their bids will improve and there is an enhanced prospect of securing government contracts. An informed supplier has a better understanding of its rights and responsibilities in relation to a given transaction.
- Suppliers should encourage municipal purchasing departments to give seminars to the supplier community to inform them of the preferred process.
- Most purchasing managers are willing to debrief suppliers when they lose or get disqualified from bids.
- A supplier who has taken the time to learn the relevant policies and procedures has a better change of submitting a winning bid.
Looking at municipal purchasing rules in general, municipal or prospective suppliers must refrain from any of the following:
- Complaining to council every time they lose a tender to try to reverse the original decision. By all means, a supplier may and should complain when cheated. However, cheating is rare. In most cases, bidders lose because they either priced too high, or they failed to meet the tender specifications.
- Trying to get new products approved through the user departments without informing the purchasing department.
Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at email@example.com. Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.