Gretna — Jefferson Parish’s push to revamp its online bidding process for interested vendors is going to be delayed a little longer as parish officials try to figure out the best plan to meet the parish’s needs.
The Parish Council was initially set to select a company to handle electronic bidding in October, but the board decided to scrap those plans at its Oct. 24 meeting. Instead, the parish will again solicit proposals from interested companies to provide the state-mandated service.
Brenda Campos, director of purchasing, said the parish decided to go back to the drawing board for two reasons. First, once the parish’s evaluation committee reviewed the initial proposals it became obvious that electronic bidding services had changed immensely since Jefferson Parish pioneered the process in 2007. The committee saw some systems that were fully constructed and ready to go and others that were basically made-to-order, Campos said.
Secondly, parish officials realized they needed to develop a consensus on the best way to pay for the service in an effort to increase contractor participation. The committee and council just needed more time to consider all of the options, she said.
“There have been so many different changes, so many different trends,” said Campos, who noted electronic bidding has exploded since the parish first began offering the service in 2007. “It’s just picked up so much.”
The parish’s existing electronic bidding contract expires in May.
Jefferson Parish received proposals from seven companies under its initial request for proposals this past spring. A committee composed of officials from multiple parish departments evaluated and scored those plans. According to parish records, two companies, BidSync of Utah and Central Bidding of Baton Rouge, received the exact same high score.
Campos said the parish is trying to increase use of its electronic bidding system because it saves time and money. Unfortunately, contractors have been slow to embrace bidding online because the current contract with SicommNet has an unpopular pricing structure. Currently, contractors who bid online must agree to pay 1.25 percent of the total contract cost if they are awarded the contract, Campos said. Those fees can be substantial for some of the parish’s larger projects.
Campos said the parish wants to eliminate that fee; however officials haven’t decide the best way to pay for the service. Some of the proposals featured programs that would have operated at no cost to the parish because all the costs would have been borne by subscription and document fees paid by contractors. Other systems required Jefferson Parish to pay as much as $20,000 a month or as little as $5,000 a year. Parish officials must determine the best way to foster contractor involvement without the parish having to take on unnecessary costs, Campos said.
“Basically it will give us an opportunity to regroup and rethink what it is we want to do,” she said about the delay. “We want to make sure the new contract is as efficient as possible.”
In addition, Campos said the new bidding process must allow the simple importation and exportation of data to the parish’s current financial management system. She said it shouldn’t take long to develop a new request for proposals, and she expects a contractor to be chosen early next year.
“As long as it’s compatible with our software that we’re using already and it complies with state law, that’s what we’re looking for,” Campos said.
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