Part 3: The Procurement ProcessFor the purposes of successfully executing procurements, there are several aspects of governance worthy of attention.
Protecting Confidential Security InformationCybersecurity often implicates a tradeoff between confidentiality in security techniques and maximizing transparency of government activities. Many vendors are hesitant to share security information that, if disclosed, could benefit attackers or industry competitors. Yet government offices have a fundamental obligation to share information with the public. Election offices should consult with their legal and procurement teams to better understand what information can be held closely, and what must be released. During procurements, this determination should be made clear to potential proposers as well as how to mark information as proprietary and confidential. If you are unable to protect vendor proprietary and confidential information from disclosure, you should expect to receive less detailed information from proposers.
The PlayersTypically, election officials and their teams, procurement teams, and IT teams all have a role to play in election procurements. In many jurisdictions, poll workers and the public are also involved, and elected officials often have a critical role in setting priorities and budgets. To the extent possible, this is good for transparency and may also provide opportunities to educate about your approach to security. Election officials are the customer, and procurement and IT teams are there to help the election officials achieve their goals. While these different entities may be in the same organization, they may not always see the problem the same way. Together, by focusing on their respective roles, these teams can complete efficient and effective procurements.
Understanding Common Procurement TypesThere are many ways to execute a procurement. Different procurement types are appropriate for different circumstances. This section will address three common approaches:
- Pre-negotiated contract: This is an agreement established by a government buyer with a schedule contractor to fill repetitive needs for supplies or services.2 Pre-negotiated contracts include blanket purchase agreements (BPAs), indefinite quantity indefinite delivery (IDIQ ) contracts, and schedule contracts (e.g., contracts awarded by the General Services Administration and available for use by state and local government organizations).
- Lowest price technically acceptable: The award is made for a specific organizational requirement on the basis of the lowest evaluated price of proposals meeting or exceeding the acceptability standards for non-cost factors.
- Best value: These refer to tradeoffs between cost factors and non-cost factors, and allow the government to award a contract for a specific organizational requirement other than the lowest priced. The perceived benefits of the higher priced proposal have to merit the additional cost, and the rationale should be well documented.
- Is there other hardware or software that you’ll no longer need to purchase because the more expensive option has a particular additional feature?
- Will the solution result in reduced operating costs due to fewer errors, provide for increased capabilities resulting in a greater portion of the job being done in an automated fashion, or result in the likely elimination of the need for other systems or staffing?
- Can you reduce risk (and consequently avoid cost overruns) because of the more expensive approach? If so, what is reducing this risk worth?
- What types of non-monetary value can you consider? Does a better security approach reduce reputational risk? Political risk? Can you estimate a range of financial value for reducing that risk?
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