Procurement Often Pits Bureaucracy Against Best Practice By Liza Lowery Massey
Pressure from elected officials and special interest groups, overwhelming workloads, outdated rules and processes, and a lack of support can stymie the best efforts. Despite these issues, because government requires competitive processes that are open to public scrutiny and feedback, it leads to better practices.
Why are public-sector agencies experiencing procurement problems? First, agencies that stray from or fail to follow their own rules and processes can find trouble. This occurs when resources are stretched too thin from staff reductions or increased procurement workloads without increased staffing resources. It also occurs when experienced employees leave and new hires aren't adequately trained.
Some business units handle their own procurement with little or no oversight. The excuse is that a central procurement authority is too slow. Often the real reason is a lack of planning by the business unit or failure to involve central procurement early in the process. The lack of external oversight makes it easier for intentional misconduct to occur and fosters unintentional problems and mistakes.
Familiarity can lead to complacency among co-workers. Recently a government official partially blamed an agency's procurement scandal on employees trusting what other employees told them. External oversight and formal auditing deter inappropriate actions, or at the very least, uncover problems after that fact to prevent them in the future. Auditing, if used effectively, also can lead to process improvements.
The bottom line is government can do procurement better. Following public-sector best practices and using technology make it possible.