Public Sector

Transparency with Purpose – Public Sector Procurement

Mike Cook, Head of Public Sector Solutions, Ivalua

Procurement transparency exists within the Public Sector because it is required by law. And yet, not all transparency is equally effective. In order for the public to be well-served by transparency, the agencies providing it need to consider which groups need transparency, why they need it, and what actions they expect to be able to take as a result of what they see.

Suppliers need bidding and contract transparency.

It is one thing to make tenders public, and another to offer suppliers visibility into the end-to-end bid management process and final award decisions.  Suppliers clearly need to know what bids are available, but closing the loop by also posting who was awarded the business and how they were selected helps suppliers who were not awarded contracts improve their future decisions and proposals.  This also demystifies the process for those small and disadvantaged suppliers who often interpret the lack of visibility as an overstated complexity that discourages them from participating. This encourages more diverse participation and improves the quality of responses  – and therefore creates value for the general public.

The public needs spend and supplier selection transparency.

Earning the public’s trust requires an understanding of how much is being spent, for what, by whom and with whom. Beyond those details, the public deserves evidence that their tax dollars are being managed well, with a structured, deliberate process and by a talented team of professionals. 

Running a transparent procurement operation contributes to the trust that both suppliers and the general public have in government agencies. Technology can play a key role in supporting transparency, such as through a public forum that connects people who have questions with those who have answers. 

Ironically, too much transparency can be just as damaging to public trust as no transparency. The volume of data and transactions associated with very typical Public Sector buying activity can be so overwhelming that despite seeing everything, interested parties see nothing. Worse still, a lack of structure might suggest that no one is truly managing the spend. Government agencies have to facilitate transparency and openness while never losing sight of why that visibility is needed.

In cases where municipalities, local governments and state governments are hesitant to expose their spend to the general public, it is likely because of the challenge of compiling the data in a usable format and providing the context of each purchase. Without contextualized understanding, people can easily – and unnecessarily – become concerned. They might be concerned with the amount of a purchase without realizing it is a tiny fraction of a budget or only a small part of a project. With contextualized transparency, entities can often answer questions before they are asked, increasing the public trust and avoiding a costly freedom of information or similar requests for information.  

Public Sector procurement transparency is steadily evolving towards more transparency with full context. Agencies have come to understand that it is important to show the big picture, as well as the details, because both tiers of information can educate the public in different ways.

Government agencies that provide the minimum level of transparency just show transactions and allow each person to figure out the context for themselves. This is likely to lead to one of two negative outcomes. Either the person gives up because, despite the transparency, there is no understanding. Alternatively, they may misunderstand the meaning of what they are seeing because there is no context.  Rich reporting data from public portals can provide much of the context that has been missing in the past and dramatically reduce the frequency of these negative outcomes.

The public sector will always face specific and unique challenges. Transparency should be a cure for those challenges, providing a highly defensible process and consistent openness. Transparency makes it possible to shift the strategic direction of an agency without having to be defensive. It is the intent driving the need for transparency, not the transparency itself, that offers the greatest value to the general public and suppliers alike.

To learn more read the Governing Institute 2019 Procurement Survey

Why Ivalua for Public Sector?

Ivalua for Public Sector was purpose built to address the unique issues facing the Public Sector entities. Our Public Sector solution will grow with you, configure to your specific needs, and most importantly meet your ever-changing demands.  Our Public Portal provides public access to solicitation, awarded contracts, analytics, and details of the end-to-end bid management process to provide greater visibility, context, and supplier inclusion for active and planned solicitations. Ivalua provides you with an adaptive source-to-pay platform configured to your specific needs, unlocking innovation through enhanced flexibility and transparency.  This is what Ivalua for Public Sector can do for you. 

If you would like to speak to Mike and his team please get in touch to arrange a demo 

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