State government spends more than $1 billion annually to buy a variety of goods and services, ranging from paper and pencils to computers, fuel and food. Historically, three agencies and three separate chapters of laws have governed the procurement of goods and services.
For more than a decade, internal groups have worked to bring together the disparate and sometimes contradictory statutes into a common framework that would enable potential contractors and purchasers to easily understand contracting laws.
The Legislature recently passed a new law to consolidate procurement laws under Enterprise Services. The legislation is designed to make the procurement process more transparent, competitive and efficient. The changes take effect Jan. 1, 2013.
The bill requires procurements to be based on a competitive solicitation process, with exceptions for emergency, sole source, direct buy, client services and market conditions.
The procurement reform bill had broad support from state agencies, business and labor. Among those testifying in support were the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises, Health Care Authority, Washington Federation of State Employees and the Independent Business Association.
The 2011 bill creating Enterprise Services (ESSB 5931) directed the new agency to “review current state procurement practices, not including public works, and provide a report to the governor with procurement reform recommendations.” In response, Enterprise Services convened an interagency procurement workgroup that developed draft recommendations.
The recommendations were developed into a survey and sent to thousands of businesses and purchasing professionals to determine what changes in procurement practices would offer the greatest benefits. The agency received more than 1,200 responses and more than 3,000 individual comments.
The interagency workgroup and Enterprise Services used the stakeholder input to refine the recommendations and develop the procurement reform legislation.