By Mary Kate McGrath - September 23, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted government procurement failures, with federal, state, and local governments scrambling to meet equipment shortages. Many regions are struggling with a low supply of ventilators and PPE, such as masks, gloves, or gowns for healthcare workers. Now that the pandemic has exposed inefficiencies in procurement protocol - including outdated policies and procedures - it’s important to find solutions to these issues. Technology can facilitate improved government procurement - by leveraging a mass notification system, administrators can communicate with suppliers, increase transparency, and streamline product delivery.
State or local leaders need to understand the three existential challenges government officials faced to procure supplies amid the pandemic, according to the Aspen Institute.
These interconnected issues can all be considered as state or local leaders communicate and collaborate to develop an improved procurement strategy.
Fundamental flaws in how procurement functions within the government were also revealed over the last year - specifically out-of-date policies and the preexisting prohibitive bureaucracy, as well as a lack of transparency, weak coordination, and a failure to implement digital tools, as per the Aspen Institute.
The emergency emphasized the need to reevaluate the role of digital technology in procurement, and how administrators may be able to leverage existing tools, such as mass notification, to boost collaboration, coordination, and success across the supply chain. Local governments can use the pandemic as an opportunity to use technology as a means to build a streamlined, sustainable, and equitable procurement strategy for the future.
One major benefit of leveraging mass notification for government procurement is that these systems are likely already being utilized and are providing value in state and local communities. This tool offers new capability to those working to improve procurement, without adding an extra cost item amid a time of budgetary distress.
There are many best practices in procurement that government can facilitate:
Governments will need to make difficult decisions regarding goods; it is often worth prioritizing fast delivery over the lowest bottom line. For example, employers who are paying less will often face a cumbersome procurement practice, and this can incur costs later, as workers struggle to identify supply chain delays.
A mass notification system can further improve delivery speed, keeping relevant stakeholders informed of delivery dates and preventing any further confusion. This can also free up those working in the procurement office - if delivery dates or times can be proactively communicated, it will prevent constituents who are waiting for supplies from looping back for further updates. As a result, administrators will have more time and bandwidth to oversee orders as well, ensuring that supply chains are running effectively.
One strategy that has helped digital-savvy state governments during the pandemic is the ability to review different suppliers and share information about the order across departments. In Pennsylvania, the secretary of the Department of General Services Curt Topper piloted a program that allowed procurement professionals to provide feedback on suppliers, allowing jurisdictions throughout the state to get a better sense of which businesses to procure from, according to DataSmart City Solutions.
The level of collaboration across jurisdictions in Pennsylvania required a successful communication strategy, and improving communication across agencies will improve procurement protocol in both emergency response and everyday operations. Other states can take cues from the program’s success, and use technology to facilitate collaboration between regions, towns, or cities.
Local governments can support procurement efforts and bolster small business support by investing in online, user-friendly procurement practices, as per Aspen Institute. Digital procurement systems will increase transparency with constituents, allow leaders to replenish the vendor pool with small or local businesses, and help ensure the process is more manageable both throughout the pandemic and in the future.
If state and local leaders are able to digitize the procurement process, it will facilitate outreach and support of local businesses or manufacturing plants. Administrators should publicize these efforts as well, allowing local business owners to be aware of the change and take advantage of the opportunity.
A mass notification system can be used to communicate the opportunity with these businesses, who will be given instructions for taking on a role in the government supply chain. Government agencies can use the system to further evaluate interest by distributing a geo-poll, asking vendors if the program would be a beneficial opportunity or surveying regional businesses to learn more about which relevant supplies might be in production.
Opaque procurement practices don’t benefit anyone - not only will siloing this information prevent leaders from making informed choices, potentially second-guessing choices, or making mistakes, it can also promote distrust among employees and the public. While distributing information about the procurement process via mass notification - which vendors were selected, what the distribution timeline will realistically look like, public leaders may not be able to avert mishaps, but they can boost their reputation for honesty and build trust.
Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.
In August, millions of students across the United States returned to college or university campuses amid the...