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MANAGEMENT UPDATE.

AN INTERNATIONAL PROCUREMENT AGREEMENT AND ITS BENEFITS TO STATES

In early March, an unusual agreement was signed between the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) and top public procurement professionals from the nations of the United Kingdom to benchmark with each other, share best practices, leverage academic research, build the profession. and work together on meeting the challenges of modern procurement.


“It’s really about the profession and what we can do to support and elevate it globally through sharing practices and doing a better job of promoting procurement and making it a career of choice,” Valerie Bolinger, NASPO’s president, told us last week.



The agreement will have immediate benefits for US states and the public procurement profession generally. Bolinger, whose presidency began in January, noted that discussions with many other countries have surfaced similarities in the problems they face in her field, including the need to educate potential workers as to what public procurement entails and ease the widespread difficulty in recruiting workers into the profession.


While discussions with other countries have blossomed in recent years through NASPO’s International Summit, the seeds for the agreement with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland procurement professionals were planted in October last year when Bolinger and David Gragan, NASPO’s Chief Administrative and Strategic Operations Officer, spent time in Scotland learning about a 12-year-old program that is designed to spread information about procurement as a career and create an entryway into the profession. “If we can create or recreate, in some form or fashion this program, it could be hugely beneficial for states,” Bolinger says. “I don’t know of a single state that doesn’t have issues recruiting and retaining talent.”


“I walked away from that with my mind blown about some of the things that are going on in procurement there,” says Bolinger who also serves as the chief procurement officer in Idaho.

Bolinger has also been impressed with Parliamentary decision-makers in the UK, who seek the council of public procurement professionals. “I learned that in the UK when leadership in Parliament have a goal, objective and strategic initiative that they want to meet, they will turn to procurement and say, ‘How are you going to make this happen? How are you going to get us there?” 


In her job as Chief Procurement Officer in Idaho, these kinds of questions simply haven’t been asked. While this may not be true in every state, she cites a very common “horrible disconnect” between policymakers and procurement professionals in many US states and sees much benefit to public procurement professionals here through shared information on how to build a better practitioner-policymaker relationship.  


In the months following the agreement, NASPO will focus on ways to bring new ideas from overseas to the states. “It’s not just conversation,” says Bolinger. “Now we’re going to take action and move forward to deliver benefits to our members in state procurement.”


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