By Marc Shapiro
When it comes to public procurement, joining a cooperative purchasing program is an established best practice for cities and towns. But not all purchasing cooperatives are equal and U.S. Communities, created by public agencies for public agencies, offers more. In addition, U.S. Communities is the only purchasing cooperative sponsored by NLC and four other national organizations, along with more than 25 state municipal leagues.
What sets U.S. Communities apart from other public purchasing co-ops is that it is structured in a way that provides maximum transparency and oversight. And recently, U.S. Communities has developed standards and a simple checklist to enable cities to determine if the cooperative contract under consideration utilizes the processes, methods and structure to provide the best value and protection.
The Cooperative Procurement Standards address transparency, oversight and accountability, and public agency protection and supplier contract compliance. A Cooperative Procurement Standards Checklist is included. The Legal Due Diligence Standards review the steps to protect the public agency prior to accessing a cooperative contract.
The mission of U.S. Communities is to provide participating agencies access to competitively solicited contracts with national suppliers offering a broad line of top-quality products and services. Each supplier commits to providing their most competitive government pricing to all participating agencies. Regularly scheduled internal and third-party audits ensure compliance with contract pricing, terms and conditions, while benchmarking analyses evaluate the overall value. Contracts are also reviewed quarterly by the Lead Public Agency, and all documents pertaining to contract solicitations are publicly posted on the U.S. Communities website for complete transparency.
Today more than 50,000 registered public agencies utilize U.S. Communities government cooperative contracts to purchase more than $1 billion in products and services annually. The continuing rapid growth of participation by cities and towns and other public agencies is fueled by the program's proven track record of delivering excellence in procurement solutions. U.S. Communities contracts have delivered more than $1 billion in savings to public agencies since it was established.
Yet, importantly, U.S. Communities goes beyond providing outstanding contracts. Together with supplier partners, U.S. Communities is committed to offering comprehensive business solutions that help agencies maximize cost-control while also improving operational efficiencies and performance. U.S. Communities continually works with key government purchasing officials from across the United States to identify solutions gaps so that these needs may be addressed through U.S. Communities program contracts. U.S. Communities takes great pride in not only providing resources, but also in serving as a resource, with innovative offerings including an online shopping portal, educational webinars and trainings, and a green purchasing program.
Details: To help cities understand purchasing cooperative options, U.S. Communities will conduct a webinar on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 2:00 P.M. EDT. For more information and to register for the webinar please visit Understanding Your Cooperative Purchasing Options: U.S. Communities Webinar on Purchasing Cooperative Standards. For general program information, visit U.S. Communities or contact Marc Shapiro, firstname.lastname@example.org.