Texas Procurement Reforms

Rules to improve the procurement process used by state government agencies in Texas may be limiting awareness of new technology innovations that can help deliver government services more efficiently and economically.

Procurement of goods and services is always a balancing act: promoting efficiency while mitigating risk to produce the most successful outcome for citizens in the most cost-efficient manner.

The Texas legislature has long encouraged a centralized systems for cooperative contracts to take advantage of cost savings and increased effectiveness. In the technology realm, this has enabled the consolidation of IT services shared by state entities, increasing volume purchasing of services and improving management of major technology projects. The result: significant costs savings, increased efficiency and greater accountability in state and local contracts.

But recent changes to cooperative contracting vehicles have decreased the purchasing limits, resulting in agencies using them only for small contracts. Newly mandated reviews have added to procurement timelines. And, most critically, apparent confusion about the new rules have left many state agencies reluctant to engage in a dialogue with the tech community out of fear that they’re breaking the law.

The reality of the legislative reforms is that there are no new restrictions precluding this type of dialogue between vendors and prospective customers. But the perception among state employees that this communication is illegal has created a “firewall” of sorts between the state and the tech industry. As a result, Texas may be missing out on new advances and innovations that can help the state solve its business problems.

The Texas technology industry is clearly at the forefront of innovation. According to CompTIA’s Cyberstates 2016 report, the tech industry accounts for 6.2 percent of the state’s economy. Nearly 600,000 Texans are employed in the industry, making it the second largest state for tech employment.

Clearly the intent of the procurement reforms was not to stifle dialogue between the state and its tech industry; or any other industry for that matter. But the reality is that agencies are operating under the misconception that communication and dialogue are prohibited. This has adversely impacted many procurements: through slow-downs in the process; by decreasing the number of procurements; and by prompting agencies to use alternative procurement methods that increase cost and risk to the state.

The CompTIA Texas Procurement Committee, part of the association’s extensive public sector practice, is committed to encouraging and educating state agencies on the benefits of ongoing communication with current and prospective vendors. Ongoing and direct communication drives competition and innovation and ultimately provides for a more successful procurement process that’s in the state’s best interest.