Officials tackle technology in procurement

Don Upson, Virginia's secretary of technology and Dick Thompson, the director of Maine's division of purchases, shared their views on the status and future of technology in state government procurement at last week's Fall Procurement Conference sponsored by the Coalition for Government Procurement.

Upson said that he now has "procurement authority for all state contracts for hardware, software and services," thanks to an executive order signed recently by Gov. James Gilmore. "We're going to do it for a year and see how well it works and then propose it to the legislature," Upson said.

Upson also said state governments should concentrate more on managing procurements than they currently do. "The role of state government is to set a model --not how to buy, but how to manage," he said.

Thompson, who is also the past president of the National Association of State Procurement Officials, said state procurement officials "are finally breaking the anchor tying us to the low bid" and concentrating on the overall quality of services. Thompson said World Wide Web-enabled transaction processing has provided the greatest benefit to state procurement because it provides "a direct link to the end user of the product." He also noted that there are areas that need improvement.

"Contractor/state relationships must improve in the future," from the bidding process through project development Thompson said. Also, the effort to bridge the "digital divide" that separates the "haves" and the "have-nots" in state government must be addressed, he said. "Administrative organizations were not funded as quickly as things like education and health services," which created a disparity within state government, he said.

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