Guest Q&A: How Cooperative Purchasing Helps Organizations Thrive

Earlier this month, we announced an amendment by the City of Tucson, Ariz., to add our new Arbitrator 360° HD mobile video evidence collection system to a cooperative contract available through the National Intergovernmental Purchasing Alliance Company (National IPA). The Arbitrator 360° HD joins a full range of products available via National IPA including Toughpad and Toughbook mobile computers, security and video surveillance solutions, professional displays and digital signage, projectors, professional video cameras and AV equipment, video teleconferencing, scanners, whiteboards and mounts.

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For more information on cooperative purchasing and how it helps institutions around the country, we invited National IPA’s VP, Marketing Andrea Scobie for a guest Q&A.

1. What is cooperative purchasing as it relates to public sector procurement? How does it work?

Cooperative purchasing has become recognized as a public procurement best practice. Most states currently have legislative statutes that recognize the value cooperative purchasing brings to public agencies and educational institutions within their state. Cooperative purchasing for public sector is defined by NIGP – The Institute for Public Procurement as:

  • The action taken when two or more entities combine their requirements to obtain advantages of volume purchases including administrative savings and other benefits.
  • A variety of arrangements whereby two or more public procurement units purchase from the same supplier or multiple suppliers using a single IFB or RFP.
  • Cooperative procurement efforts may result in contracts that other entities may “piggyback.”

Cooperative purchasing allows entities to “piggyback” or utilize a contract that was competitively solicited and publicly awarded by another entity in order to procure goods and services.

2. What are the benefits of cooperative purchasing?

There are numerous benefits for agencies and institutions. By utilizing a cooperative contract, procurement staffs are able to quickly and efficiently source and procure supplies and services without having to go through the extensive bid/quote or solicitation process. This saves valuable time and resources. By leveraging the volume of participating agencies from across the country, a national cooperative contract provides national aggregate pricing, thus resulting in cost savings.

There are benefits for suppliers, as well. In lieu of the costly endeavor to respond to multiple bids and solicitations from individual institutions, through a cooperative contract, the supplier can effectively market their award to other agencies. The result is lower pricing on higher quality items and savings in additional time and money on future repair and/or replacement costs for their customers.

3. What is the process by which contracts are solicited and awarded and made available via National IPA?

 The contracts available through the National IPA portfolio of cooperative agreements have been competitively solicited and publicly awarded by a lead public agency/governmental entity (e.g. state, city, county, public university or school district), utilizing the best public procurement practices, processes and procedures. These lead public agencies are independent of the cooperative, allowing the agency to be focused on the best value for the agency. The lead public agency not only prepares the solicitation, but awards, administers and utilizes the agreement for its own needs, thereby limiting the award to the supplier that provides the best value to the agency and agencies nationwide.

 4. What kind of organizations can take advantage of cooperative purchasing through National IPA?

 Any agency that exists for public benefit can participate with National IPA, including:

  • States
  • Cities/Municipalities/Counties
  • K-12, PTAs
  • Independent Special Districts
  • Public/Private Higher Education
  • Hospitals
  • Non-Profits
  • Airports/Mass Transit
  • Utilities (Gas, Electric, Water/Sewer)
  • Churches

5. What kind of procurement can be done via National IPA cooperative purchasing?

 The National IPA contract portfolio includes agreements for consumable supplies such as IT supplies and services, office products, maintenance supplies and janitorial supplies, as well as capital equipment such as technology, heavy equipment and grounds maintenance equipment and project-based requirements such as furniture.

6. For public agencies, transparency and accountability are important parts of the procurement process.  How does National IPA ensure those are addressed?

 National IPA provides complete documentation of all agreements available through the cooperative on the website at www.nationalipa.org. Agencies do not need a password, nor do they need to issue a FOIA to see the contracts that have been awarded by the lead agencies and made available through National IPA.

7. There are numerous cooperative contracts out there. What should I be looking for in order to get the best value for my organization?

National IPA differentiates itself from others with its contracting processes, public procurement expertise, customer service and contract management skills, which results in broader adoption of contracts.

8. Many organizations would like to invest in new technology but their budgets are tight. How can National IPA help?

Cooperative purchasing, particularly the technology agreements such as the award to Panasonic by the City of Tucson, include the latest technology at discounted prices via national aggregate pricing. The agreements allow for the addition of technology as it is released, so that participating agencies may take immediate advantage and procure the latest and greatest.

9. What sets National IPA apart?

  • Process: True lead agency model by which the cooperative contracts are awarded
  • Partners: Cooperative portfolio of nationally-recognized industry leaders
  • Principal Procurement Agencies/Lead Agencies: Our lead agencies are considered the best in public procurement
  • Participating Agencies: Fastest growing participation, all benefiting through cooperative
  • People: The National IPA team includes public procurement professionals who are available to assist with integration of the cooperative into procurement strategy.

10. How can an agency participate with National IPA and take advantage of the cooperative agreements?

Participating is easy and free – there is no fee!  Simply go to www.nationalipa.org and click the ‘Click to Participate’ button on the top right. For more information, email info@nationalipa.org.