D.C. region OKs buying deal

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has selected Digital

Commerce Corp. to provide an online shopping vehicle for its 17 member governments.

The deal is believed to be the nation's first regional, multi-jurisdictional

electronic purchasing system at the local government level, government and

company officials said Wednesday.

"If this is successful, I think other state and local governments will

be looking at this," said Tony Bansal, president and chief executive officer

of Herndon, Va.-based Digital Commerce.

The Web-based purchasing system should save procurement officials time

and money by enabling them to use online catalogs to make open-market buys

from multiple vendors, as well as pool their purchases to take advantage

of volume discounts, Bansal said.

Local governments throughout Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and

Maryland, along with some 20 regional authorities, school districts and

commissions, share 21 contracts that account for $100 million in annual

cooperative purchases. The new procurement tool will enable governments

to expand the area's Cooperative Purchasing Program by making it easier

to find pre-negotiated contracts on which to piggyback, officials said.

MWCOG's goal is to take the governments' "entire file cabinet full of

contracts and create electronic catalogs out of them" to eliminate duplicative

purchases, said Carl Kalish, head of the Cooperative Purchasing Program.

By giving officials an easy-to-use tool, "we are hoping to reduce the

amount of maverick or rogue procurements," Kalish said.

Jurisdictions could see savings from 5 percent to 10 percent of total

procurement costs, Bansal said, adding that the voluntary program's success

will depend on how quickly and widely it's adopted. The company will train

officials on the system and MWCOG staff will promote it across the region.

Digital Commerce will create a Web platform for MWCOG that incorporates

components of its flagship business-to-government solutions: FedCenter.com

and StateGovCenter.com. The new electronic purchasing system is scheduled

to be operational July 1, with several jurisdictions participating in pilot

programs before then.

The transaction-based system is free for participating jurisdictions.

Vendors pay a fee of 0.95 percent for each transaction — roughly 16 percent

of which goes to MWCOG.

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