As state and local governments struggle to obtain necessary resources to effectively combat the spread of COVID-19, many are having to adapt their procurement practices.
Procurement divisions in the state are scrambling to procure a variety of different products and services during the COVID-19 crisis. A nationwide issue is a lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and governments are having difficulty securing the large volume required. An article in Yahoo Life details some of the challenges Maryland’s Office of State Procurement is facing. These include competition from other states to secure orders, having to work odd hours to communicate with overseas vendors, and the sheer volume of demands and solicitations. Additionally, costs for even basic equipment are on the rise as demand is high and supply is low. In some cases vendors are expecting high deposits before the State can secure the contract. There is also a heightened risk of being scammed.
Director of procurement for the state of Maryland Danny Mays spoke to Yahoo Life:
Urgent demand and lack of centralized purchasing in the U.S. have put intense pressure on his team to close deals quickly without getting cheated by scam artists. Most contracts now call for deposits before shipping, making vetting of suppliers a continual concern.
“In blue-sky days the state doesn’t prepay for anything,” Mays said. “In China right now to secure orders, we’re seeing 50 percent or more deposits required to secure these orders. If you don’t get into that space and compete in that space, then New York is going to get the items or Florida is going to or someone is.”
Local government is facing similar issues to the State. Areas not designated as “hot spots” are having a tough time securing the needed levels of PPE. Worcester County recently decided to hire a procurement consultant to order supplies for various departments within the county. Worcester does not have a dedicated procurement office.
From coverage in Delmarva Daily Times:
Up until now staff assigned to other duties have been responsible for trying to buy COVID-19 supplies for Worcester County, Higgins said. As time has gone on, it’s become harder to acquire those supplies and Worcester County has needed some help.
Higgins felt the need to higher a consultant right now was important because projections indicate COVID-19 hasn’t peaked yet on the Eastern Shore, he said. Because of that, Higgins wants the county to be ready now.