Redefining Success Through Purchasing in CA K12 & Local Government

by | May 7, 2021 | Government Security Solutions, Public Security Solutions

Let’s face it, procurement in public sector isn’t easy.

Every California public sector organization is guided by the state’s Department of General Services (DGS) requirements.  These requirements must be met or offer a stricter adherence to be acceptable.

This often generates cumbersome processes that frequently produce inferior – sometimes harmful – results.

Issues With the Public Sector Purchasing Processes

If traditional purchasing systems produced amazing results, we would not experience many of the systemic issues within public sector that we do today.  Yet, these strict processes continue to leave schools, cities, and law enforcement with the following challenges:

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Inefficiencies of trying to get different vendor systems to work together

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Excessive spend on inferior and outdated systems, and

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A variety of purchases which can’t be mapped back to any strategic outcome.

Here are just some of the results of traditional purchasing methodologies:

COMMON PRACTICEUNDESIRED RESULT
RFPs are often written to buy “stuff” and make no mention of the actual problems that needs to be solved. This lowers the success criteria to become focused on nothing other than price, and vendors are not encouraged to help solve problems.
RFPs or purchase requests have ill-defined or missing evaluation criteria which are mapped to desired outcomes – leaving them solely or primarily focused on price.Selection of the lowest bidder frequently costs more through change orders, lack of desired results, and sustainability issues. Worse yet, the effects are sometimes catastrophic.
Traditional purchasing processes frequently leave out a method to meaningfully engage with vendors to explore objectives, success criteria, metrics that matter, interoperability requirements, and sustainability needs.This leaves agencies with different systems across their organization making it MUCH more expensive to maintain. When these systems are safety related, campus safety is placed severely at risk.
RFPs are time consuming and expensive – not to mention, frustrating.Due to time constraints and lack of resources, agencies are often encouraged to just copy and paste from previous RFPs – ironically from RFPs that also failed to produce desired results.
Poorly written RFPs often have no evaluation criteria, no scoring system, no defined success criteria, etc.These poorly written RFPs often cause massive technical problems and incite unwanted protests which induces substantial time and financial impacts to the organization.
Standard RFPs offer no natural protection against foreign interests.Agencies become vulnerable from products coming from countries on the federal watch list. Please don’t scoff at this one; it happens way too often.

There is a better way.

Believe it or not, the same state department that gave agencies requirements such as RFPs also acknowledges the importance of avoiding the caustic effects produced by procedural (and all too often mindless) requirements. They want agencies to leverage shortcuts in order to produce desired results.

Agencies can leverage purchasing vehicles such as the GSA contract to mitigate the harmful effects of expensive, time consuming, and frequently disastrous RFPs. The GSA contract empowers school districts, local government, and law enforcement agencies to find partners – not vendors, simplify procurement through contract purchasing, and leverage solutions that are approved by strict federal procurement regulations.

What is GSA?

The GSA MAS (General Services Administration Multiple Award Schedule), or GSA Contract for short, is a federal purchasing program that is most often used by our federal government, department of defense, and military.

GSA MAS is written in such a way that ANY public sector agency such as local government, state-funded higher education, and public-school districts can leverage the contract from authorized partners. In fact, there is an active effort within the administration to promote GSA MAS utilization within these agencies.

Leveraging GSA solves the issues discussed above by enabling agencies to choose authorized GSA Partners. GSA Partners – not vendors – can:

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Provide valuable communication before, during, and after purchasing that encourages collaboration (not distance like RFPs require)

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Establish consensus across agency stakeholders (not just the RFP’s author’s ideas)

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Promote solutions that contribute to desired outcomes (not just buying stuff), and

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Give time back to agency personnel to focus on tasks more important than tactical procedures

Ok, GSA MAS seems great, but are you sure I can use it?

I’m so glad you asked. Yes, we are absolutely sure. We don’t want this article to get boring with a bunch of legalese, so we’ll point you in a few directions.

Please refer to Public Contract Code (PCC) 20118

This PCC essentially authorizes districts to leverage contracts to purchase when the board has determined it to be in the best interests of the district. Learn more

Eligibility for the use of GSA MAS is defined by the GSA in 40 U.S.C 502(c) where it explains that any public agency including schools funded by the government (no private) can use GSA to purchase IT, security, and law enforcement products and services offered through specific contract schedules.

Many purchasing departments or financial directors often state that their ‘bylaws’ prevent the use of contract vehicles and that RFPs are required. So far, without exception, we have discovered that this is never actually the case.

California’s own CMAS (California Multiple Award Schedules), a division run directly by CA DGS, has its own contract vehicle – the CMAS Contract. On the CMAS website, it’s stated that “CMAS agreements are not established through a competitive bid process conducted by the State of California. Because of this, all pricing, products and/or services offered must have been previously bid and awarded on a GSA Contract.”

Yes, even DGS uses GSA to serve as the foundation for its own purchasing vehicle.

Now what?

ICU has worked hard to build an amazing safety and security portfolio of solutions to offer to our gov/ed clients – all available through GSA MAS. Our exclusive focus on public sector, law enforcement, and schools give us the expertise to help our clients navigate the real issues at hand and achieve your strategic objectives.

We’re not just another vendor. We’re your partner.

Whether you are in the beginning stages of planning a safety or security strategy or in the middle of a tiresome and tedious RFP, give us a call. Like all our clients, you will be glad you did.

About the Author

Team ICU

ICU Technologies is a GSA Schedule 84, and CMAS Contract Vendor for Local, State, and Federal Governments Public Safety and Security Solutions.

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