State: New contract saves $3M yearly on office supplies

Staff writerApril 19, 2012 

The state Enterprise Services agency announced it has issued new contracts for purchasing that it believes will save 21 percent or $2.9 million a year on office supplies. The new contract splits the supplier role in two – letting Office Depot supply paper and office supplies and Office Pal supply ink products and toner.

The move comes less than a month after state lawmakers also passed a procurement bill that will further consolidate state purchasing through the Department of Enterprise Services. The reforms will subject contractors to greater scrutiny, including disqualification for misconduct.

Joyce Turner, director of the Department of Enterprise Services, talked about both developments with The Olympian editorial board on Wednesday. She said the new contracts for supplies reduce the product array.

“We reduced the number of items from 60,000 … to around 3,600,’’ Turner said. “It still allows over 100 different kinds of pens you can order. … When you can’t find a pen you like out of 180 some options, something is wrong. You need to buy your own pen.’’

Details of the agency’s awarding of the contract are here at the agency’s web site. It says environmentally friendly products – including paper made of 100 percent recycled fiber in Camas by Georgia-Pacific – also are more available.

A state audit faulted Office Depot two years ago for $306,000 in overcharges it said it found in spot checks of sales to DES’s predecessor – the former Department of General Administration –in 2009. Our report at the time is here and links to audit documents are here and here.

As I wrote at the time, no fraud was alleged or found. Instead the audit investigation said GA did not adequately oversee or monitor the contracts, which led to GA paying prices that were higher than specified in the contract or included shipping costs that were higher than allowed. “They need to do a better job” of monitoring, auditor spokeswoman Mindy Chambers said at the time. GA disputed the findings, and Turner told the editorial board this week that the new procurement set-up was not a response to that specifically. But she did say the auditor’s special investigation showed there was too much complexity in the purchasing system.

Details of the new procurement law – House Bill 2452 –that was signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire are here. My reporting partner Jordan Schrader wrote this story about the bill as it worked through the legislative process.

Turner said the new procurement law brings all state laws and rules for more than $1 billion in state purchases into a single place, allowing standardization of practices. “This is no small effort,” Turner said. “What this allows us to do is be more open and more transparent.’’

Among changes is a provision in the law that lets DES bar contractors or vendors “that are not ethical,’’ Turner said. It also lets the state look at what she called “best buy opportunities” that go beyond the sticker price of the lowest bidder.

Among factors the state could consider are quality of the work. “In some cases we know a bidder, just because they are the lowest bidder, may not have the experience and may end up costing more,’’ Turner explained.

Turner said rules to be developed later in the year could include a sustainability factor. “Someone who does something in a more green way might win the contract than someone who is simply the low bidder,’’ she said.

Turner also said training on purchasing is to be made available so employees can use the contracts better and get the best value for taxpayers.

The Olympian is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service