Benefits of Cooperative Purchasing
By Paul Whetzel, CAPP
After attending a couple of conferences this year, I am still amazed by how many vendors and end users are not aware of cooperative purchasing. For those that don’t know how it works, it basically allows you to bypass your organization’s normal procurement procedures. By doing this, you do not have to place projects out for bid, develop/create RFP’s, etc. State agencies, city municipalities, and counties have different guidelines to follow. Some agencies allow you to “piggy back” off of other states cooperative purchasing agreements.
According to FEMA, a “cooperative purchasing program” is a cooperative arrangement for acquiring goods or services that involves aggregating the demand of two or more entities in an effort to obtain a more economical purchase.
Entities typically sign up to use cooperative purchasing programs through a cooperative purchasing agreement. Program membership may provide entities with access to lists of agreements or contracts for goods and services at pre-negotiated rates or prices. Typically, the member then purchases the goods or services by negotiating with participating vendors and placing purchase orders or entering into contracts based on the rates or prices listed in the cooperative purchasing program’s agreements or contracts with vendors.
Here at Charleston County, we use it frequently for many projects. This method has saved us significant amount of time and money. Our procurement department recommends we try to go this route before issuing bids and RFP’s. Some organizations we have used are Sourcewell and www.procurement.sc.gov/contracts.