NIGP Consulting: Unintended Consequence or Deceit By Design? by Jon Hansen

Posted on April 16, 2015


“Say I’m a State wanting some help figuring out where I want/need to go with automating procurement and I want someone unbiased. So I think NASPO or NIGP, right? They are our State’s go to place for public procurement guidance and training. Now NASPO doesn’t have a ‘consulting’ arm but NIGP does! So let’s go there, because it is an easy sell internally to my Gov’t bosses because we already go there to get our buyers trained and certified. So let’s get NIGP consulting in here. So here comes the NIGP (Periscope) consulting team. I wonder what guidance they’d give regarding automating procurement?????”

Whenever I cover a story, I always try to look beyond the immediate event itself, to understand the potential consequences.  Think of it in terms of following the individual ripples that move outward after a pebble has been dropped into the still waters of a pond.  Where will those ripples ultimately lead?  These are the extended or far reaching elements representing the consequences of the original single action.

In the case of NIGP consulting, the “competitive” RFI process through which it “competitively” awarded the consulting services contract to Periscope, represents the dropped pebble.  Putting aside for the moment the controversy surrounding the award process itself, I wonder if anyone actually thought of the consequences of choosing an eProcurement vendor to provide consulting services to government clients?

One thing is certain, the individuals whose collective observations are represented in the opening paragraph to this post, certainly did.

Based upon their observations regarding the question as to who NIGP (Periscope) would recommend in terms of which vendor’s solution should be used to automate the procurement process, the answer seems fairly obvious.  For example, I wonder what would have happened if Missouri had hired NIGP (Periscope) consulting instead of going with the firm or firms they did? Do you think Periscope would have recommended Perfect Commerce? How about SciQuest?

“Identifies and eliminates participation of any individual in operational situations where a conflict of interest may be involved.” – NIGP Code of Ethics

Given that the NIGP’s own Code of Ethics specifically indicates that potential conflict of interest situations must be identified and eliminated, would lead one to conclude that they either did not follow their own code or, intentionally ignored it.  Either way, one has to wonder “what were they thinking?!”

conflict of interest1

Would you hire a vendor (any vendor) as a consultant, knowing that there is a possibility that after assessing your needs they would be recommending the type of product they themselves can provide?  It would be like hiring Ford as a consultant to investigate your vehicle requirements and expecting them to suggest that you purchase GM. Even if the Ford consultant has the best of intentions, the mere possibility of a conflict of interest according to the NIGP Code of Ethics, has to be eliminated.

If the conflict of interest regarding the NIGP (Periscope) consulting arm is as obvious to you as it is to me, then why did the NIGP do it?

It is hard to believe that no one at the NIGP recognized that this could pose a serious problem – especially given the fact that the organization is responsible for the training and certification of buyers.

This should raise serious questions as to whether or not the NIGP is even qualified to continue to provide certification services. After all, if the NIGP fails to adhere to its own code, do you think they should be charged with the development of your organization’s buyers? I will say this however, the above scenario would make for one very interesting discussion in the next NIGP class on ethics.

I also wonder how other associations such as IACCM, ISM and Next Level Purchasing would advise their membership when confronted with a similar situation?


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