Governments 'piggyback' for IT savings

Cities and counties could save up to $50 million on collective technology

purchases over the next two years through a program announced Thursday.

Through the nonprofit U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance

(GPA), a pool of local governments can buy computers and other high-tech

equipment in bulk discount directly from companies such as Dell Computer

Corp., IBM Corp., Gateway Inc., Micron Electronics Inc., Comark Corp., CompUSA,

Wareforce.com Inc. and Software Spectrum Inc.

Multiyear contracts were signed with the companies in April after a

competitive bidding process, officials said.

GPA is an umbrella organization created and administered by the National

Association of Counties (NACo), the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and

the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing. About 5,500 public jurisdictions

participate in GPA programs. There are no costs or fees to participate.

In the program announced this week, participating local governments

can "piggyback" onto a lead agency's agreement to purchase technology equipment.

For instance, when Fairfax County, Va., the lead agency in this program,

seeks bids on specific products, prices are discounted substantially based

on the expected volume. Any other local jurisdiction in the program can

take advantage of the lowered price.

USCM deputy executive director David Gatton said that there is "appropriate

oversight of vendors." A committee monitors the contracts, compares the

costs of products and services and ensures that the prices are competitive,

he said.

"We view this contract as a win-win," said David Forsythe, a vice president

and general manager with Dell's government business unit. Companies and

governments save on time as well as cost, he said, adding that regardless

of size, jurisdictions ranging from Taos, N.M. to the California Department

of Transportation will receive the same type of service.

According to NACo president Jane Hague, the program is expected to generate

$100 million in sales this year and more than $500 million over the next

three years.

GPA was formed in 1997 when it contracted with Office Depot to supply

office products. Since then, participating local governments, districts

and agencies have saved $50 million in office supply purchases over the

past three years, $35 million in 1999 alone.

Hague said future GPA programs will include furniture products and e-government

services, such as online payments, testimony, and election registration.

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