N.C. building Web-based buying

North Carolina is building a Web-based procurement system that will be open

to every agency, municipality, university, community college and school

in the state.

A July 1 launch is planned for the system, which officials estimate

will save about $50 million annually for state agencies and other entities

through lower costs of goods and services and more efficient processes.

Accenture, a technology consulting organization, and Epylon Corp., a

public sector e-procurement provider, will jointly develop the system.

"North Carolina is taking a very comprehensive top-to-bottom approach,"

said Stephen George, co-founder and chief executive officer of Epylon. "We're

going to see some significant participation."

In its contract with Accenture, which also built the state's portal

last summer, North Carolina exercised an option for the e-procurement system

at no cost to the state. Accenture will recoup its investment through a

1.75 percent marketing fee charged to suppliers on each order.

Sharon Hayes, director of the statewide portal (www.ncgov.com), said

the site initially will offer products and electronic quotes. Later this

year, it will expand to include services and electronic bids, she said.

Epylon will post vendors' catalogs on the site for free, and buyers

will be able to choose from a nationwide market. The company also has special

programs for women- and minority-owned businesses.

"We have open arms," George said. "It's not a private supplier network

in any sense."

Unlike in Virginia, where state agencies can opt into the commonwealth's

just-launched e-procurement system, Hayes said North Carolina's system is

mandatory for agencies. She said it would save money, improve workflow management

and increase accountability.

"A lot of them don't know where they're spending that money or what

they're buying," she said.

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