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    Purchase Power: A Special Report on State Procurement

    Procurement is at the heart of almost everything a government does. But states vary widely when it comes to how well they manage the things they buy.
    BY  | FEBRUARY 17, 2016

    Governments buy a lot of stuff. Every year, one out of every three dollars governments spend goes toward purchasing something -- from photo copier ink to new vehicle fleets -- to help provide services. This very large chunk of the budget would seem to make procurement the most obvious area to look for new ways to save taxpayer money. Yet for the billions spent every year in state procurement, many central offices have long remained mired in old techniques. They’ve been unable to take a big-picture view when it comes to spending, and they’ve only dabbled in using data and new technology for more efficient purchasing.

    The examples of what can go wrong are many. Take Mississippi, which has a high reliance on no-bid contracts. In 2014, the commissioner of the Department of Corrections (DOC) resigned and became the subject of a federal investigation for allegedly taking $2 million in bribes in exchange for steering prison contracts to a former lawmaker. In Colorado, an audit last year found poor oversight of more than one-third of the contracts surveyed in the state’s health exchange. The lack of follow-through to make sure vendors were complying with contract requirements was partially responsible for more than $400,000 in questionable costs.

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