States buy into e-buying
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Apr 02, 2001
Virginia and North Carolina are building electronic buying systems to make
work faster, easier and cheaper for agencies statewide.
In Virginia, Bette Dillehay, the commonwealth's deputy secretary of
technology, called her state's system an "electronic mall" where agencies
could shop for products and services. The prices would be set, so agencies
wouldn't have to negotiate contracts themselves. Future enhancements include
online auctions and making the system available to local governments.
Meanwhile, 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. The state plans a July 1 launch. Officials estimate
the system will save about $50 million annually for state agencies and other
entities through cheaper goods and services and increased efficiency.
Accenture, a technology consulting organization (formerly Andersen Consulting),
and Epylon Corp., a public-sector e-procurement provider, will jointly develop
North Carolina's system. American Management Systems Inc. built Virginia's,
called eVA (www.eva.state.va.us), and will make its money through transaction
and registration fees, Dillehay said.
In Virginia, vendors pay a one-time basic fee of $25 or an advanced
fee of $200. The basic fee includes online access, vendor catalog posting
and services such as electronic receipts and online bid submissions. The
advanced fee includes the basic service plus automatic electronic receipt
of bid documents and the ability to research historical procurement information.
Vendors also must pay a 1 percent transaction fee per order, not to
Accenture will recoup its investment in North Carolina through a 1.75
percent marketing fee charged to suppliers on each order.
Dillehay said Virginia vendors have had mixed reactions to the system,
but she didn't expect them to pass on the additional costs to agencies.
The commonwealth has guaranteed AMS a certain level of business, she said.
Once that is reached, revenues would be split between AMS and the state.
If the guaranteed level is not reached, the state would have to make up
the difference, she said.
Sharon Hayes, director of North Carolina's portal (www.ncgov.com), said
the site initially will offer products and electronic quotes. It will expand
to include services and electronic bids, she said.
Epylon will post vendors' catalogs on the North Carolina 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. 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 will save money, improve workflow management and increase
"A lot of them don't know where they're spending that money or what
they're buying," she said.