Cooperative Procurement

Cooperative Procurement— once known as "piggybacking"— is a public procurement method that has skyrocketed in recent years for many reasons.

Cooperative procurement is a method whereby if a government agency has gone through the procurement (bid) process, established a contract for an item or groups of products or issued an award or awards to several vendors, this award can be used by many government agencies for a fixed period of time.

There are many reasons for the growth in cooperative procurement: Groups have more buying power, procurement staffs are shrinking, and writing specs for every single purchase is no longer necessary. As one state procurement director said before his state joined a large procurement co-op, "Why re-invent the wheel when another state and their procurement staff have done all of the work?"

In focusing on the equipment required to maintain public sector fleets, there are several options and opportunities to participate in cooperative procurement for garage equipment, such as the Western State Contracting Alliance; commonly known as the WSCA contract.

This contract—titled vehicle lifts and related garage equipment—is being used by 20 different states. When a state joins a WSCA contract, every city, county or state agency can use the contract. Terms and conditions are clearly spelled out, while the contract itself has a mandate for guaranteed lowest government pricing. Contracting officer Breann Hollandsworth said the contract was one of their fastest-growing contracts and has exceeded anticipated purchases.

All WSCA contracts are competitive bids; multi-year contracts with multiple vendors and a variety of equipment offered on these multiple award schedule (MAS) contracts. Our research on the vehicle lift contract shows there are four brands of lifts offered, multiple vendors and the contract also offers wheel balancers, tire changers and alignment and exhaust evacuation equipment.

An example we found was one vendor's Web site at where each state shows a specific state contract, terms, conditions and net discounted and delivered government price.

While the Government Services Agency (GSA) serves the needs of every federal agency, the co-ops serve the needs of all city, county and school agencies. As a government-to-government co-op, these contracts are also multi-sourced to include many vendors, all with the guaranteed lowest government pricing, include freight, and a fully disclosed set of terms and conditions of the specific contracts.

Like the WSCA co-op offers vehicle lifts and related shop equipment, the Houston/Galveston Area Council (HGAC) ( co-op offers vehicle lifts and a full array of fleet service equipment. For a government agency to join HGAC, membership is free and never expires.

Besides vehicle lifts and fleet service equipment, HGAC offers all types of public works equipment, trucks, cars, ambulances and municipal maintenance equipment. City of Chubbock officials were able to buy the garage equipment of their choice, legally avoid the cumbersome process of writing bid specifications and purchase the lifts they planned to have in their shop versus the typical low bid offering (which did not suit their agency requirements). Another agency in Illinois was able to buy a crack-sealing machine at a savings of more than $6,000 over the low bid they received locally.

To join HGAC, an inter-local contract form is submitted, and the submitting government agency receives its own membership number to view the HGAC site, products and prices. HGAC contracts are convenience-use contracts. In addition, they serve as a barometer to a purchasing department to verify that the purchase order they are issuing is the best price available for the use of taxpayers dollars. Also, as HGAC reviews bids, and looks at the many "soft costs" of a public procurement, man-hours can be saved using the HGAC co-op.

Procurement statutes also allow a government agency to use another's contract as a basis of award. Recently the State of Delaware DOT purchased mobile column lifts by using the federal GSA price as a bench-mark and issuing a purchase order to a lift vendor.

Bottom line: Cooperative procurement can and does save money. Would you buy a personal item without first checking around for some prices? Why would you do anything differently when you're using taxpayers' money?