Last week the Government Modernization Committee took testimony regarding the millions of dollars of annual savings as a result of modernization reforms to the state's purchasing laws.
Oklahoma State Purchasing Director Ferris Barger provided the committee with his most recent savings report.
Barger's report is a result of past legislative purchasing reforms that we sponsored in response to an audit conducted by IBM of Oklahoma's purchasing agency.
Those reforms sought to refocus the agency on managing and driving down the cost of items that are commonly used by most state agencies.
The reforms also require the release of an annual savings report so the Legislature can track the implementation of the savings effort.
The latest report shows savings of 76 million dollars during the 2016 fiscal year. This savings amount is a combined result of both traditional purchasing contract savings and information technology purchasing reforms from Oklahoma's newly unified Information Technology agency.
You can review this report for yourself at https://www.ok.gov/DCS/documents/ProcurementSavingsReportFY2016.pdf. It is a detailed contract-by-contract breakdown of the savings. Upon reviewing these contracts, you will see that they extend not just to state government agency, but also to the local government entities that are participating in the program.
The savings didn't happen overnight. They are the result of an ongoing effort to change the culture of the state's purchasing operation.
IBM noted in their audit that the purchasing agency had focused on the bureaucratic compliance requirements of state purchasing, but hadn't focused on driving down the cost of items the state had purchased.
Now, however, the agency has been charged with the task of creating, managing, analyzing and monitoring the contracts.
This may seem like basic common sense, but common sense has not always found a home within state government.
Several years ago, as we started to work on the modernization of purchasing, the initial reaction of the purchasing agency to the IBM report was not welcoming. The suggestion of common sense best purchasing practices made department leadership bristle, and our early interactions with them were not pleasant.
However, under current purchasing agency leadership, central purchasing and legislators have worked together as partners in the effort to lower costs.
This working relationship is evidenced by their regular appearances before our committees and willingness to address concerns from legislators and their state agency customers.
It should be a comfort to Oklahoma taxpayers to know that there are those in the legislative and executive branch who are working together to make common sense and best practices feel at home in state government.