Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced today a new Procurement Ordinance to overhaul the County’s procurement process while expanding County’s ability to engage Minority and Women owned businesses (M/WBE).
President Preckwinkle was joined at Wednesday’s press conference by the Inspector General, Patrick Blanchard, Cook County Commissioners and members of her purchasing team.
“In my inauguration address, I laid out four principles by which we define this administration – fiscal responsibility, innovative leadership, transparency and accountability, and improved services. Each one of these principles factors into our goal of reforming the County’s procurement process,” said Preckwinkle.
The ordinance, which passed the County Board unanimously, re-organizes and streamlines the procurement process to avoid unnecessary delays, clarifies provisions, provides internally consistent definitions, and eliminates the redundancy and inconsistency of certain provisions.
Overall, the new ordinance provides long overdue clarification of the procurement process. The new code clarifies and expressly allows for specific best procurement practices such as joint governmental purchasing and group purchasing. This enables us to proceed with efforts to do joint purchasing with the Cook County Health and Hospital System and the City of Chicago – initiatives that will improve the efficiency of government and yield significant savings for residents.
“This is an important part of our ongoing effort to streamline government and use taxpayers’ dollars as effectively as possible,” said Preckwinkle.
The previous procurement code required Board approval for each step of the contracting process, a burden that is inconsistent with current best practices and the approach of other governments. Going forward, Board approval will take place when it is most meaningful – at the time of the actual selection of the vendor and execution of the contract. These changes will reduce the time necessary to procure essential goods and services by six to eight weeks, and vendors will be paid more quickly. While maintaining vigorous oversight, the ordinance seeks to equalize the threshold required for board approval of contracts, raising the level for all contracts to $150,000. All contract information will be available to the public online at the website of the Office of the Purchasing Agent.
“The Inspector General’s Office is in full support of the President’s proposal,” said Inspector General Patrick Blanchard. “The proposed ordinance has taken critical steps to protect Cook County and its residents from the unlawful steering of contracts. I applaud the President’s Office for taking the initiative to shed sunlight on the procurement process, allowing interested parties to know where Cook County money is going and why it is going there.”
“This ordinance will allow County government and local businesses to continue to work together while also creating a more streamlined procedure for the Board to approve contracts,” said Commissioner John Daley, Chairman of the Finance Committee. “I will continue to work with President Preckwinkle to make County government more efficient and more effective.”
“It is critical that governments have clearly defined purchasing polices so that goods can be procured in an efficient, cost effective and transparent manor. Through this ordinance, Cook County shows a commitment to instituting modern, sensible purchasing practices and policies.” – Jeffrey L Esser, Executive Director/CEO, the Government Finance Officers Association of the US and Canada.
The new ordinance includes significant improvements in how the County engages minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
Under the new code, the Compliance Officer is enabled to segment procurements so as to facilitate greater participation by M/WBE by taking the nature of the contract and local markets into account when setting M/WBE participation goals.
“On behalf of HACIA’s hundreds of members, including construction companies, professional service firms and construction-related businesses that employ thousands of workers and support their families in Cook County, we support President Toni Preckwinkle and this ordinance, as we believe this will create a better environment for doing business with the County, improve the County’s bottom line, and create more opportunities for minority and women-owned firms,” stated Jorge J. Perez, Executive Director, Hispanic American Construction Industry Association.
“This is absolutely a step in the right direction to institutionalizing best practices proven to increase the level of inclusion of minority and women-owned businesses,” said LaVerne Hall, Director of Contract Compliance for the Bureau of Finance. “We are incorporating practices like contract goals and target marketing to make sure that we can bring local businesses to the table that may not have had a chance under the old practice.”