Central Purchasing Saves Millions, But OK is Still Overpaying for Pencils and Blu-ray Discs

  • Joe Wertz

New buying guidelines saved the state about $9 million in FY 2011, and purchasing officials expect the FY 2012 savings to be even greater, a legislative panel was told Tuesday.

Oklahoma Watchdog’s Peter J. Rudy reports:

State Purchasing Director Scott Schlotthauer says his ultimate vision is to create an online catalog — like Amazon.com — where agencies can go to buy whatever they need for the lowest cost possible.

Some state entities — like Higher Education, cities, counties and school districts — aren’t required to follow the Central Processing Act, but Schlotthauer said such authorities could still save money by using his division for purchasing, according to Oklahoma Watchdog.

The interim study was requested by state Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, chairman of the House Government Modernization Committee.

The committee also heard about a statewide contract on more than 900,000 supplies that saved the state about $1.2 million in the past year. The state could save even more if agencies were allowed to buy items that are being sold cheaper elsewhere, lawmakers were told, according a report by The Oklahoman.

The price of a box of trash bags has more than doubled with the new contract, Mary Reznicek, purchasing director for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, told the panel.

“In order to avoid paying more than necessary, the OSBI must now request an exception each time we buy trash bags,” she said, according to the Oklahoman’s Michael McNutt.

Charlene Bredel, who oversees purchasing at the James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helena, said she’d found some items that were more expensive on the statewide contract, the Oklahoman reported.

Schlotthauer said the state’s buying power helped it leverage more than $8 million in savings in FY 2010. He thinks the state saved about $20 million over the past two years.

Reznicek also suggested a change in a state program that supports companies that hire developmentally disabled workers to teach them job skills while making products, The Oklahoman wrote.

But state law prohibits the Central Services Department from giving state agencies permission to buy products elsewhere if it’s being sold at a lower price, The Oklahoman reported.

OSBI is paying $307.85 for 50 Blu-ray Discs, compared with a price of $37.99 from an online retailer, she said. The state could be buying No. 2 pencils from a federal contractor at 2 cents each instead of 18 cents each.