School district business and purchasing professionals know they need to follow the law to make purchases. School board trustees want to be reassured that staff are getting best pricing and value, while following the law. So the purchasing professional frequently needs to educate trustees about how and why various procurement methods are appropriate.
Different tools are used for varying procurement needs, from Requests for Qualifications, Requests for Competitive Sealed Proposals, Requests for Proposals or bids. Sometimes it is most prudent, efficient and cost effective to use a purchasing cooperative contract where the appropriate procurement laws have already been followed. Procurement professionals should validate purchasing cooperatives they plan to use so they can be confident about the contracts available for use.
Five answers to common assumptions/questions a board of education may have about using a cooperative contract:
1. Why is it legal to use a co-op contract as a school district contract?
Title 7 of the Governmental Code Chapter 791, known as the Interlocal Cooperation Act, encourages governments to
contract with one another to increase efficiency and effectiveness.
Section 44.031 of the Texas Education Code specifies that school districts are allowed to use an interlocal contract
for purchasing once the governing board approves and signs an interlocal contract with that government entity.
2. How do we know that the co-op contracts are legally procured?
a. The solicitations and awarded contracts should be procured legally, using and referencing the correct procurement law. (For example, facilities services contracts for construction must follow Texas Government Code 2269, with the exception of energy savings conservation contracts).
b. The cooperative should have and share proof of due diligence, including:
· Advertisement dates should be available for each contract award.
· Receipt date and time of each submittal should be timely, recorded and available for review
· Evaluation tabulation worksheets should be available for each contract award. (If the co-op awards a
contract to all proposers, there may not be an evaluation, and the contract may not be competitively bid.)
Purchasing professionals are encouraged to ask for proof of evaluation.
· The applicable procurement law should be used for each proposal and contract award.
3. What kind of reassurance is there that the cooperative will stand behind the contract award?
The cooperative should provide contract review/audit services; address any problems with
orders / deliveries / substitutions; and maintain current product/pricing lists, etc.
4. Do the solicitations for proposal encourage participation by historically underutilized businesses or minority-
or women-owned business enterprises?
Look for evaluation criteria that include HUB/WMBE.
5. Does the government entity offering the contract use these contracts?
The “gold standard” is for cooperatives to use their own contracts.
School districts are invited to sign an interlocal contract with Harris County Department of Education and then have access to use more than 500 Choice Partners cooperative contracts. Membership is free and there are no usage requirements, so joining provides options that are priceless.
Choice Partners has its roots as the first cooperative in Texas, established in the 1960s as HCDE Purchasing Cooperative. In 2012, the three HCDE purchasing cooperatives, HCDE Purchasing Cooperative, Gulf Coast Food Co-op and Choice Facility Partners, merged to become Choice Partners.
For more information, go to ChoicePartners.org or call 877-696-2122.