— House State Government Committee Chairman Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) issued the following statement in response to recent media coverage regarding cooperative purchasing arrangements for school or municipal construction projects:
“I have been involved with the cooperative purchasing issue on a legislative level for some time, including recently holding an informational meeting to gain perspective from a variety of interested parties.
“These cooperative arrangements simply offer another option for our school districts and municipalities to consider when making procurement decisions. In many cases, the additional combined purchasing power of the cooperative will provide the best value to the customer; in some others, a school or agency may find that it is better off procuring goods or services on its own.
“The benefits, in either case, can only be realized if sound purchasing practices are followed. Luckily for the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, most school districts and municipalities employ procurement professionals who assist in ensuring that any purchasing decisions are made in accordance with these best practices.
“Lately, however, this topic has been complicated by the activities of the Coalition for Procurement Reform (CPR), a special interest group composed of five roofing manufacturers and several other roofing contractors and consultants.
“Therefore, I would like to assist CBS 21 and other media outlets in making sure that their audiences receive an accurate representation of the facts of this issue, especially concerning recent investigative reporting on the purported waste of taxpayer money resulting from the use of cooperative purchasing.
“As an interested party who has worked with many of the stakeholders, I would like to ensure that the following information is taken into consideration.
“First and foremost, there is no study indicating that this practice has led to taxpayer waste, let alone in the amount of $100 million referenced in CBS 21’s coverage.
“For example, Carlisle Construction Materials—a roofing manufacturer and CPR member that competes with the cooperative purchasing networks for the business of schools and municipalities—paid a private consulting firm to conduct a price survey of Pennsylvania architects in 2010.
“That survey included no analysis of or data on a cost differential between cooperatively purchased roofing projects and locally bid roofing projects. Carlisle Construction Materials itself invented the $100 million figure, comparing the hypothetical survey results with several undisclosed school roofing projects.
“Second, it is important to note that—contrary to statements made by the CPR—competitive bidding is required for the cooperative purchasing agencies, just as it is required for a project that is locally bid. The use of a cooperative purchasing agreement is not a shortcut around our legal requirement for competitive bidding, but rather an additional means by which schools may comply with it.
“Lastly, while there are undoubtably many Pennsylvania school districts that have found local bidding to be the best approach for any given project, CBS 21’s report referenced Big Spring School District’s savings of $1 million, a number that is likely misleading.
“Minutes from the Big Spring School District board meeting on Sept. 6, 2016, record a Carlisle Construction Materials employee offering free membrane roofing to the school district. With a local company on the record offering significant price concessions, it’s unlikely that savings reflected a standard price which might be compared more widely.
“We are all rightfully concerned that our taxes, and especially our school funds, are being used in the most effective way possible. Cooperative purchasing agreements provide an additional choice for school districts and municipalities to consider when undertaking a large procurement; in situations where cooperative purchasing will not provide the best value, a school district following best practices should locally bid the project.
“But to remove that option from all schools, for all projects, would be a mistake.”
Representative Daryl Metcalfe
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Ty McCauslin