Two states opt for e-procurement

Government buyers in South Carolina and Hawaii this summer will start using an electronic system developed by NIC Commerce and Bank of America Corp. to streamline purchasing, the companies announced this week.

In South Carolina, the companies' Purchase Street eCommerce solution will support buyers from 76 state agencies, 46 counties and all public schools. It will be available to universities, cities, towns and local political subdivisions in the state as well.

NIC will build a central database of all products and services the state acquires through pre-negotiated contracts, and it will host the electronic catalog at its Reston, Va., facility. State employees will use a secure Web browser interface to route orders to suppliers.

"We are combining NIC Commerce's e-purchasing platform with the bank's payment platform in an effort to build an end-to-end solution that combines purchasing, payment and reporting," said Chuck Cogar, a business development representative for NIC Commerce. "If you can integrate the purchasing and payment, then you have a whole lot more information to report."

Buyers will be able to make purchases on Bank of America purchase cards.

The $8.64 million South Carolina expects to save during the five-year partnership will cover NIC's transaction fees as well as any administrative costs the state incurs managing the program, Cogar said.

South Carolina and Hawaii are the first state government customers for the NIC/Bank of America joint venture formed in March 2000. Last summer, the Houston-Galveston Area Council of Governments signed up for the companies' World Wide Web-based procurement solution.

Hawaii's deal extends an existing partnership with another NIC subsidiary to manage e-government access through the state's official Web site www.eHawaiiGov.org. It is the first of 12 state portals operated by NIC to add a procurement component.

The project will begin with the development of an online purchasing process with vendors that already do business with the state. The second phase will concentrate on registering new vendors online and processing requests and bids of less than $25,000. The last phase will focus on requests for proposal and formal bids on contracts valued at more than $25,000.

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