Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Role of Elected Officials in Procurement

Practices vary across the country on the role that elected officials (i.e., city council, mayor) play in the procurement, award, and contract execution process.  

Roles of elected officials:  For some agencies, the governing body or chief administrator makes all or most award decisions for procurement of goods, services, and construction.  Sometimes, they also are responsible for signing contracts.  The following are some of the negative impacts of these practices:
  • Delays:  Delays on award and execution of contracts while waiting for the council or board to meet.  
  • Politics:  Making procurement a process tainted with political overtones instead of one based on fair and transparent competition.  Sometimes, elected officials end up making decisions that are at variance with best procurement practices in order to please certain constituencies.
From my perspective, the best practice is for governing bodies to establish the budget, but delegate award and contract execution decisions to the executive branch of government, consistent with a delegation of authority matrix and established procedures. 

Ordinances, rules or bid documents?  Should procurement policies and practices be adopted by the governing body or by the executive branch of government?  The governing body's role is to establish high-level policy which is controlled through the budget process.  Actual procurement policies and practices should be handled administratively, with many of the requirements being included in bidding documents.  There are some states and local public agencies where there are detailed laws outlining the procurement process, and many of these are not consistent with best practices.  Embedding such practices in laws and rules limits flexibility for public agencies to make the best decisions on a case-by-case basis. 

What's your philosophy?  How does your agency operate?  It takes a lot of education to help elected officials understand their appropriate role in the procurement process.  Have you begun the conversation within your agency on appropriate roles and responsibilities between the legislative and executive branches of government?

Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog
© 2014 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

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