Governments 'Piggyback' for IT Savings

Cities and counties could save up to US$50 million on collective technology purchases over the next two years through a program announced Thursday.

Through the nonprofit U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance (GPA), a pool of local governments can buy computers and other high-tech equipment in bulk discount directly from companies such as Dell Computer Corp., IBM Corp., Gateway Inc., Micron Electronics Inc., Comark Corp., CompUSA, Inc. and Software Spectrum Inc.

Multiyear contracts were signed with the companies in April after a competitive bidding process, officials said.

GPA is an umbrella organization created and administered by the National Association of Counties (NACo), the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing. About 5,500 public jurisdictions participate in GPA programs. There are no costs or fees to participate.

In the program announced this week, participating local governments can "piggyback" onto a lead agency's agreement to purchase technology equipment.

For instance, when Fairfax County, Va., the lead agency in this program, seeks bids on specific products, prices are discounted substantially based on the expected volume. Any other local jurisdiction in the program can take advantage of the lowered price.

USCM deputy executive director David Gatton said that there is "appropriate oversight of vendors." A committee monitors the contracts, compares the costs of products and services and ensures that the prices are competitive, he said.

"We view this contract as a win-win," said David Forsythe, a vice president and general manager with Dell's government business unit. Companies and governments save on time as well as cost, he said, adding that regardless of size, jurisdictions ranging from Taos, N.M. to the California Department of Transportation will receive the same type of service.

According to NACo president Jane Hague, the program is expected to generate $100 million in sales this year and more than $500 million over the next three years.

GPA was formed in 1997 when it contracted with Office Depot to supply office products. Since then, participating local governments, districts and agencies have saved $50 million in office supply purchases over the past three years, $35 million in 1999 alone.

Hague said future GPA programs will include furniture products and e-government services, such as online payments, testimony, and election registration.

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