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Posted By NAEP, Monday, April 11, 2016

Commentary: Emergency Sole-Source Procurement and Political Pressure

Posted By NAEP, Monday, April 11, 2016

By: Neil Markee
Editor in Chief-Purchasing Link

Ever been on Candid Camera?  Maybe not on the TV show, but camera surveillance in public places and commercial establishments has become a fact of life—a key tool of law enforcement and maybe even commercial marketing. The last time you parked in a public lot and walked into a shopping area, stopping at various shops along the way, you were probably on camera all along the way.  Where you went and what you stopped to look at or bought were probably recorded. Merchants have found the information helps them better understand buying patterns. Law enforcement has found video surveillance a valuable tool used extensively to collect evidence on legal issues ranging from minor traffic infractions and shoplifting to kidnapping and  mass murder.  When there is a need to collect evidence for a crime or even personal injury, the first question asked usually relates to the availability of useable video evidence.  We have come to believe that video is more reliable than eye witnesses. That is probably a fact.   About the only class of evidence considered as more reliable in the minds of the public is genetic.

The images produced by privately owned and official body-, dashboard- and property-protection cameras began to appear on the nightly news some time ago.  We routinely assumed that high-value or sensitive areas were covered and, from time to time, we had seen a horrendous auto accident that, through some unusual happenstance, had been recorded live. Although some individual police officers had worn body cameras and a few police cars were equipped with dashboard cameras earlier, until recently, the numbers were small enough to be seen as unusual. That was then. Currently, large areas of cities are covered and individuals (you or me and everyone else) can be tracked as they pass from the area covered by one camera to another over substantial distances.  All that began to accelerate after the events of August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.  Conflicting eyewitness accounts focused attention on whatever little photographic evidence was available.  Forensics eventually played a key role but, by their nature, could not provide the immediate answers demanded in the street and press. Cameras surveillance was seen as one solution. OK, you ask, but what has all this got to do with purchasing in support of higher education or hospital administration, etc.? Nothing much, I guess, until it comes time to respond to a sensitive capability involving privacy in a high-pressure environment where a sole-source procurement might be indicated.      

Police action and street disturbances reported live nightly on national television focused attention on accountability and transparency.  And the advisability of equipping individual police officers with body cameras to capture the events close up seemed obvious. Municipalities rushed to respond by seeking to acquire these devices in quantity immediately.  Rapid acquisition and implementation became both a priority and a challenge. The sudden demand for body cameras, combined with the political pressure to act swiftly, created a seller’s market nationwide. Suddenly, demand for body cameras spiked, as police departments across the country took steps to equip their forces with these bits of technology now—in recognition of their value and, no doubt, because decision makers wanted to be seen as responding positively  to criticism from all sides.  A lengthy article in the March 8, 2016 issue of the Wall Street Journal, titled “Cities Face Dilemma over Police Cameras” (by Dan Frosch and Zusha Elison) described what could be seen as the chaotic acquisition-process that ensued.  The scale of demand potentially was huge. For example, New York City alone was reported to have 34,454 sworn officers.

Departments knew what they wanted to buy and had a favored vendor in mind. Technically, or maybe actually, there were four or five potential suppliers. However, police loyalty to Taser, the manufacturer of stun guns that they had used successfully, made this a sole-source acquisition in their minds. They declined to “take a chance” on another supplier in this highly charged situation.  In fact, they were taking a stance that is not unknown within the scientific/medical research world on campus. Generally, sole-source procurement procedures aren’t designed to be quick or to facilitate emergency purchases. That has been a source of frustration on campus.   And that frustration, at another level perhaps, may have been the key factor for the end-users involved here. They wanted to make a substantial, emergency, sole-source purchase—avoiding the need to comply with the usual, protective, sole-source procedures that purchasing professionals have developed over the years. In so doing, they gave up the goal of obtaining what is needed at the lowest cost possible, despite the lack of credible competition inherent in a sole-source purchase. Their message to purchasing was clear: Just cut the purchase order.  And, at least initially, the political leadership of harried municipalities probably saw this as an acceptable trade-off for a quicker response. 

Just how pervasive was the preference for the favored supplier? According to the article, “Of the 50 largest local U.S. police departments, 24 have chosen a body camera supplier with 22 picking Taser according to the Wall Street Journal count.” Speaking of the process in general, the article said, “Opponents of the contract arrangements say officials may have cut corners by signing no-bid deals, by not testing options thoroughly, or by becoming too cozy with vendors. Many purchasing professionals would agree, but the departments saw this as an emergency procurement and wanted to turn to their proven supplier for help.  Sounds familiar!   

And so they did. Was it a good call?  Perhaps, in the rush to do something, one city signed a contract to spend $3.5 million to acquire 2000 cameras from the favored supplier during an ongoing mayoral reelection campaign. The incumbent mayor, who approved the contract, lost the election and only later did it become known that his campaign manager had a business relationship with the supplier. Both the outgoing mayor and the supplier denied prior knowledge of the relationship. The new mayor, while supporting the need for cameras, put the transaction on hold.  I assume the campaign manager did not mention the potential conflict to either the mayor or the supplier and according to the article the manager later, “said she didn’t do anything improper.” Not everyone would agree.   In another case mentioned, a municipality requested samples from several suppliers but, according to the unsuccessful suppliers, did not conduct adequate testing. Urgency may have required the change in plans but transparency would have required that the change be acknowledged immediately, and there was no mention of such action. In one city, the former chief of police is under investigation by the state’s Attorney General, apparently for allegedly taking a job as a consultant with the supplier and assisting it in obtaining a $2-million, no-bid contract with the city. The combination of having one widely favored, competent supplier, along with political pressure and, maybe, opportunism, seemed to have caused some of those involved to ignore basic, prudent procurement procedures governing sole-source procurements.

Reportedly, to avoid sole-source bidding requirements, there have been attempts to piggyback onto existing contracts that other governmental entities had previously established with a favored supplier.  In one case, a multi-year, multi-million-dollar deal would be added to an existing arrangement that had previously covered just 30 cameras elsewhere.  Taking advantage of an existing contract is, of course, a well-established procurement procedure and, when conducted properly, it makes sense.  In this case, however, the process seems to have been selected in another attempt to avoid the procedural requirements of sole-source procurement. 

Obviously, acquisition price of the devices isn’t the only consideration.  For decades, purchasing professionals have been considering life-cycle cost of ownership.  The article went on to say that, “Other cities after hurrying into camera initiatives found unexpected costs and some are pulling back.”  I doubt many individuals with a voice in the discussion had accurately calculated the likely lifecycle costs involved. The contract for handling the film can greatly exceed the cost of the cameras themselves.  In one case, the authors mentioned a city had paid $575,000 for the cameras and $1.6 million for processing and storing footage. Additional staff would be required to examine the footage.  The article mentioned a police department employing almost 10,000 sworn officers that estimated 122 new people would be required. If the job required sworn officers or people with a legal background and special training, the total cost could exceed $100,000 for each position, or $12 million annually for this group.  My retired deputy sheriff’s captain brother-in-law reminded me that to keep officers equipped would require an inventory of spare parts and cameras, so the total would probably be substantially greater than one for each officer involved. Ongoing support seems likely to greatly exceed the cost of the cameras that were the focus. These unexpected and unbudgeted lost-in-the-sauce expenses have forced some reconsideration.

It’s easy to conclude that all this is an example of politically dominated procurement at its worst. I don’t think it’s reasonable to conclude that the leaders of every municipal police department simultaneously lost their moral compasses and forgot what they knew about professional ethical procurement.  I don’t believe that the suppliers involved saw this as a unique opportunity to enrich themselves.  They will be dealing with these same departments in other areas down the road long-term. And I don’t believe that all the honest, hard-working people involved in the decision-making were likely to simultaneously lose their way, barring some major event that causes them to suspend their good sense.  But I do think the situation described in the article is an example of what can go wrong when enough political pressure becomes the dominant fact in tough decision-making situations. Rarely have procurement procedural missteps been examined so closely in the national media.  Having found fire where they saw smoke, the media appropriately examined both the events and the outcomes in some detail.  I doubt we have heard the end of this tale.   

 I don’t know how widely read this Wall Street Journal article was among NAEP Members but I think it should be required reading when the topic on the table is what to do— what not to do—when faced with the need to quickly  handle a unusual, substantial, high-priority, and very  sensitive procurement in a highly charged political environment.

Handling sensitive, sole-source procurements is one of the topics discussed around the shrimp bowl, wherever campus purchasing professionals may gather—such as at the upcoming NAEP Annual Meeting in San Antonio [May 22-25, 2016]. I suspect that more than a few of our Members can recall at least one or two incidents when maybe the rules were shaved just a bit more than necessary to fit the situation. And maybe a few might cite instances where they wished they had handled the procurement a little differently. That is why this situation provides such a useful educational opportunity.

If any reader would like to share some thoughts with other NAEP Members on any aspect of this matter, we may be able to make space available in upcoming Purchasing Links.  Just send your copy to me at: or 

What’s happening on your campus? 

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From the President: Managing People Is the Hardest Thing We Do - and It Isn't Just For Managers

Posted By NAEP, Monday, April 11, 2016

Lisa Deal, C. P. M.
University of Florida
NAEP President 2015-2016

Buyers and Chief Procurement Officers all manage people.  You may be thinking, “Nope, I don’t supervise anyone,” or you may already agree that I’m correct.  In my experience, the key to successful purchasing is to manage relationships with people.  We often find ourselves translating vendor- or procurement-speak and culture into University speak and culture.  I happen to supervise folks but even when I didn’t, I figured out some key tools I needed to do well at my job.  Here’s my list:  crystal ball, witch hat, magic wand, riding crop and pom-poms.  I have almost all of those tools in my office (I leave the riding crop at home).  Here’s how I use them (metaphorically).

  • Crystal Ball:  We always need to look into the future to think about what’s coming next.  Think about the next step in the solicitation, or after negotiating a contract how it will be implemented, or how to improve the contract next time. 

  • Witch Hat:  It’s not really fair but sometimes when I have to hold people (suppliers, colleagues, my boss—even customers) accountable, I say “My witch hat is on,” so folks know I need to be tough.

  • Magic Wand:  Ok, so mine makes noise and lights up and can’t really perform magic, but sometimes I wish it did.  Since I can’t use it for magic, I remember that I can poke people with it, meaning remind them what needs to happen. Are contract milestones being met?  Has someone forgotten to provide data?  Missed a deadline?

  • Riding Crop:  This one may be self-explanatory—it’s the witch hat and wand (poke) taken to a higher level.  I have never had to use it, but folks know I have it (at home).

  • Pom-poms:  Celebrate the success, even when it’s small.  When the customer provides a solid specification, or a colleague helps you, when you learn how to do something new or reach a milestone in a large project—celebrate (we ring a bell in our office, we also have a Happy Board).

I hope these tools don’t sound too silly.  We try to have fun in our office and use the metaphors to help us get through the daily challenges of procurement—but yes, I really do have pom-poms in my office.  I hope you find these tools helpful. Feel free to share what you use, or borrow mine.  Looking forward to seeing you at the Annual Meeting in San Antonio. (Should I replace the riding crop with spurs?)

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Tags:  leadership 

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Only A Few Weeks to the NAEP Annual Meeting: Early Bird Registration Ends April 22

Posted By NAEP, Monday, April 11, 2016

Register by April 22 for the Early Bird Discount for the 2016 Annual Meeting in San Antonio.

The meeting features a keynote speaker a day, over 50 educational sessions and new this year: Impact Sessions (but you'll have to attend to find out what they are!). Additionally, don't miss out on 100 vendors in the exhibit hall so bring your RFPs and be ready to do business! All of this and networking opportunities throughout so you can continue to build your personal network. Save $100 off the cost of registration but that discount ends on Friday, April 22nd.


Updated Hotel Information

If you do not yet have your hotel room reservations secured, we advise you to do so promptly. Our headquarters hotel, the Grand Hyatt San Antonio is rapidly filling up and is sold out on the Tuesday night of the meeting.

NAEP has secured additional rooms at an overflow hotel which is just blocks away (an 8 minute walk or leisurely boat ride down the river). Our overflow hotel, the Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk is offering the same NAEP discounted room rate as the Grand Hyatt, $189 a night plus tax. Click here to reserve your hotel room at the Hyatt Regency.

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Tags:  2016 Annual Meeting 

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NAEP Leadership Forum: Emotional Intelligence

Posted By NAEP, Monday, April 11, 2016

2016 Leadership Forum

Use of Self: Strengthening Your Emotional Intelligence

May 22, 2016
11:30 am - 4:30 pm (Includes lunch)

This add-on course leading into the Annual Meeting has quickly become a popular event. If you are a leader or would like to improve your leadership skill set, the Leadership Forum is for you.

Your professional presence requires a range of competencies, tools, and techniques. This presence is about the use of self with intent. Your emotional intelligence allows you to be aware of yourself and others, and to selectively use that awareness to effectively manage yourself and your relationships.

This course is designed to strengthen your emotional intelligence and help you better understand its relevance to and impact on customer service and organizational effectiveness. 

Click here to learn more about the course and the presenter, Debra Alexander



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"Wear Your School Colors Day" at the Annual Meeting

Posted By Shane Boyle, Monday, April 11, 2016

On Tuesday, May 24th, for those of you who will be attending our Annual Meeting in San Antonio, here’s a chance to show your spirit by wearing your school colors—tee shirt, cap, ear muffs, whatever works for you.  Lighten up the day by wearing this conversation piece and giving visibility to your own institution.

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Tags:  2016 Annual Meeting 

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Browse and Buy: Visit the NAEP Lands' End Apparel Store

Posted By NAEP, Monday, April 11, 2016

So you have your wardrobe set for Tuesday at the meeting by wearing your school colors. How about the rest of the meeting? Now you can purchase quality business casual apparel with the NAEP logo and wear to the Annual Meeting (and beyond)!

Visit our new NAEP-Lands’ End Shop online for a vast array of men and women’s clothing, accessories and promotional items. You can order any of the Lands' End products and have the NAEP logo printed on your apparel. The NAEP logo is pre-loaded so you can easily customize your color options during the application process.

Purchase your NAEP branded business attire just in time for the Annual Meeting this May! Browse the store now. click to return to top of page

Tags:  2016 Annual Meeting 

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Get Ready for the Raffle at the Annual Meeting

Posted By NAEP, Monday, April 11, 2016

Everyone can participate in NAEP's Annual Meeting by taking part in one of the meeting’s most popular traditions, the annual raffle, which supports the NAEP Scholarship programs.

At the meeting, you'll have the opportunity to buy raffle tickets for a variety of items, large and small. Tickets will be drawn at the close of the exhibit hall on Tuesday afternoon. New this year, the raffle tables will be set up in the exhibit hall so be sure to visit with the vendors on Monday night and Tuesday afternoon.

We are also seeking donations for the raffle. This year, we are especially seeking items like iPads and e-readers. We are also accepting autographed items from your coaches on campus or even tickets to events! Please consider donating an item to the raffle. 

One hundred percent of the income produced goes to the NAEP Scholarship Programs (The William E Haas Memorial Scholarship, the Nancy Tregoe Scholarship, and the Sons & Daughters Scholarships).

Bring your donation to the registration area at the meeting or ship ahead of time to the NAEP office (NAEP will pay for your shipping if it arrives by May 4th). Questions: Contact Shane Boyle for more details.

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Meet Our 2016 Annual Meeting Sponsors

Posted By NAEP, Monday, April 11, 2016

Be sure to stop by the Exhibit Hall to visit the booths of our meeting sponsors and get updates on the latest products and services they supply to higher education institutions. 

We thank the following sponsors for their generous support: (as of press time)

Heritage Partner

E&I Cooperative Services


Presidential Sponsors

NASPO Value Point

NJPA – National Joint Powers Alliance

Office Depot/Max

OptiFreight Logistics

Sehi Computer Products, Inc.

ThermoFisher Scientific

U.S. Communities-Government Purchasing Alliance


Direct Sponsors

Concur – Solutions for Higher Education





Associate Plus Sponsors


MetaProcure / Tradeshift


Associate Sponsors


Chrome River

ESM Solutions

Wesco Distribution

National IPA and TCPN

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Thank You to Our Conference Volunteers

Posted By NAEP, Monday, April 11, 2016

Thanks to the 2016 Program Committee


These are the volunteers who make it happen—the 2016 Annual Meeting Program Committee. Over the past year, these Members have volunteered hundreds of hours of service in planning and preparing our program of workshops and activities.  We thank each of them for managing the huge process that makes our meeting possible.

  • Kelly Kozisek, Oregon State University (Chair)
  • Jennifer Adling, Texas Tech University
  • Duane Bullock, Penn State University
  • Mark Conley, University of Washington
  • Lisa Deal, University of Florida
  • Denise Finn, University of Kentucky
  • Tamara Gash, Oregon State University
  • Karen Gross, University of Texas Medical Branch
  • Ray Hsu, University of Washington
  • Nichol Luoma, Arizona State University
  • Mike McNamara, Northeastern University
  • LaDonna Purcell, Morehead State University
  • Blake Reagan, University of Tennessee
  • Jerry Robinson, University of Richmond
  • Barry Swanson, University of Kansas
  • Catherine Thart, Arizona State University
  • Duane Tucker, University of Colorado
  • Cindy Urick, Swarthmore College 

The 2016 Host Committee—Our San Antonio Superstars


The Host Committee provides a wide range of services for our Annual Meeting—hospitality, local information, running the raffle for the scholarship program and assisting with the highlight Host Committee Event.  They are our “Go-To” Members during our stay in San Antonio.


Karen Gross, University of Texas Medical Branch, Host Committee Chair, is currently gathering volunteers from a number of our Texas institutions. Be sure to say a big Texas "Thank You" to each of them!

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2016 Supplier Diversity Institute - Educate, Empower, Sustain

Posted By NAEP, Monday, April 11, 2016

Successful supplier diversity programs EDUCATE their senior leaders, internal departments, suppliers, and socio-economic communities. They EMPOWER their internal and external partners to advocate for procurement from diverse businesses. They find approaches to SUSTAIN their own energy and resilience. They collaborate with diversity and sustainability programs to build procedures and systems that maintain support for diverse suppliers.

Regardless of your staff’s experience within supplier diversity or the maturity of your diversity program, there will be a session for every level of procurement professional at the 2016 Supplier Diversity Institute. Each day will feature a keynote speaker and concurrent education sessions, many of which will be interactive. You will have a chance to expand your network during a vendor fair on Monday evening followed by a reception at the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City. On Tuesday after an interactive keynote session and educational workshops, finish the institute sharing best practices at one of the many Mind-Exchange tables.

The Details:

July 31 - August 2, 2016
Embassy Suites Kansas City - Plaza
Kansas City, MO

Hotel reservations: The NAEP discounted room rate is $135 per night. Call 816.756.1720 and use the group code "NEP" or reserve online here.

Learn more about the institute here.

Register today.

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Tags:  Supplier Diversity 

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Help a Colleague with Your Donation to the Scholarship Fund

Posted By NAEP, Monday, April 11, 2016


As an individual, you can make a tax deductible donation to the NAEP Scholarship Funds (where allowable by law).  One-hundred percent of your individual donation will support the William E. Haas Scholarship, the Nancy Tregoe Scholarship, and the Sons & Daughters Scholarship funds. Recipients of these yearly awards use the funds to further their educational goals by attending NAEP academies, institutes and meetings or, in the case of the Sons & Daughters Scholarship, attending college or trade school. Upon donations, you will receive a letter of receipt for tax purposes.

Support the future of Higher Education Procurement. Click here to make a donation today.

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Tags:  Scholarship 

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AASHE Releases Campus Sustainability Hub

Posted By NAEP, Monday, April 11, 2016
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has announced the release of its Campus Sustainability Hub, an online resource library designed to raise visibility of institutions' sustainability and to facilitate information sharing between campuses and organizations. AASHE members have full access to the 5,000-pluss resources currently in the Hub. Click here to learn more.

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Tags:  Sustainability 

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Quote of the Month

Posted By NAEP, Friday, April 8, 2016

“What you do today is important, because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.”


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