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With State and Local Government spending exceeding $2.8 trillion dollars; there are over a trillion reasons for State and Local Governments to have Certified Public Procurement Professionals. As both state and local government spending continues to rise, the need for procurement reform has risen to the forefront of issues being addressed by State Legislatures and Local Governments. Procurement Reform is needed at the State, Public Authority, Local Government and School District level.

Many Procurement Reform initiatives have been implemented across the nation over the past 15-20 years. In the early part of this decade, the reform movement has targeted the “professionalism” and “ethical standards” of public procurement and has advocated for training and certification programs for all public employees entrusted with spending taxpayer’s dollars.

Government procurement practices offer significant opportunities to reduce costs and improve the efficiency of government operations. State and Local Government Procurement is a critical issue that directly affects the taxpaying public. It is time that State Legislatures make both State and Local Government Procurement Reform one of their top priorities.

Improving both state and local government procurement practices can achieve significant benefits for the taxpayers of our nation. The success of any procurement reforms, however, will be dependent on the existence of a professional, skilled and ethical procurement workforce.

Raising the professionalism of both state and local government buyers through training and certification will do more to improve the quality of products and services purchased, and will do more to ensure that the highest ethical standards are maintained, than anything that has been implemented in the past.

Over the past few years, legislative leaders and taxpayer watch organizations have voiced their concerns over the state of Public Procurement across our nation.  Audits performed by State and Local Comptrollers have identified common occurrences of non-compliance to many of the requirements of State and Local Procurement Laws and Policies. These deficiencies include bid-splitting, abuse of change orders, overly restrictive bid specifications, improper use of State contracts, and failure to issue competitive bids when required.

Without support and funding for annual training and certification in public procurement; the deficiencies identified in audits will continue.

Training and Professional Certification of public procurement personnel is not a new concept. The education and continuing professional development of those individuals involved in public procurement have been a primary objective of the Institute for Public Procurement (NIGP) since its founding in 1944.

In 1964, this quest for excellence in public procurement was more clearly defined when NIGP developed and initiated its Certified Public Purchasing Officer (CPPO) program. The CPPO program of NIGP was, at the time of its initiation, the only professional certification offered by a national professional purchasing association in North America. The concept underlying the development of the CPPO program was to establish a standard by which qualifications of any public procurement official could be evaluated for a managerial or supervisory level position in public procurement.

To more effectively promote and ensure professionalism in public sector procurement, NIGP and the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO), jointly established the Universal Public Purchasing Certification Council in 1978. The organization later changed its name to Universal Public Procurement Certification Council in 2010.

The UPPCC’s mission is to recognize professionalism in public procurement through identification of a common body of knowledge and the certification of individuals against established standards of competency.

Realizing the need for a certification program for non-managers, the Universal Public Procurement Certification Council (UPPCC), its Board of Examiners (BOE), and NIGP’s Education and Professional Development Committee developed the Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB) certification.

Why should all State and Local Government Officials support a training and certification program for state and local government procurement personnel?

State and local government spending now exceed $1.78 billion dollars. The level of visibility and the high degree of accountability required in public procurement is another reason. A public procurement training and certification program demonstrates that the government is making a reasonable effort to ensure public procurement personnel are trained and qualified.

In Florida, one of the many states that has a statewide training program, the goal of the program is to “Develop and certify public procurement professionals who adhere to an unwavering code of ethical behavior, and who possess the knowledge, skills, and ability to effectively design, solicit, negotiate, award and manage government contracts in a manner worthy of the public’s trust.  Shouldn’t all State and Local Governments implement a similar training and certification program?

Certification of public procurement personnel provides a level of professionalism that will enhance the reputation of each public agency that supports the certification process. Certification provides for lifelong learning and a progression of training. Evaluating who is best qualified is the best way to ensure those hired for public procurement positions, can do the job. A certification program is a reasonable way to determine qualifications. The consequences of non-performance relating to public procurement are simply too great to take chances. Achievable and measurable standards will help ensure we live up to the public trust.

Although not required by all state and local governments, professional public procurement certification is highly recognized and is increasingly being used as a requirement for hiring and promotions in public procurement agencies. The trend in government procurement is for mandatory certification of procurement professionals. Certification in Public Procurement tells the taxpayers that the public employee who is responsible for spending their tax dollars has reached a specific level of education, experience, and knowledge.

Certification assures the agency that those who are in a public procurement role are educated on the best procurement practices and grounded in the legal and ethical requirements of public procurement. A properly trained and certified public buyer can add significant value to the procurement process. Certification indicates a personal commitment and willingness from the employee to strive for public procurement expertise in which the individual gains personal confidence, satisfaction, and pride from direct involvement with peer groups in the procurement process. Certification is the best way to ensure that a buyer has achieved a mastery of core competency elements in public procurement and can then provide a higher level of service to maximize value for the taxpayer’s dollar.

Currently, many States regulate professions and require licensing or annual continuing education requirements, or both, for a wide range of professions including Athletic Training, Certified Shorthand Reporting, Interior Design, Social Work and Public Accountancy. States have chosen to regulate or license these professions to “protect” the public. Isn’t it time that State and Local Governments became just as concerned about ensuring that public procurement employees, who are responsible for spending more than $1.8 billion dollars annually, are qualified, well trained, and certified?

While ample training opportunities in public procurement exist; most state agencies and local governments’ fail to provide sufficient funding for, nor actively support, training of those employees entrusted with spending the taxpayer’s dollars.

As we continue to hear of public procurement scandals, at state and local governments who have been entrusted with spending taxpayer’s dollars, shouldn’t public procurement professionals be required to receive training on an annual basis, and become certified in Public Procurement? Currently, only a fraction of state and local government employees, responsible for procurement, are receiving any form of regular procurement training.

The important question is “Why aren’t all public procurement employees nationwide receiving this training?”

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