State auditor speaks on reverse auction law

State auditor speaks on reverse auction law
State Auditor Stacey Pickering. Photo credit: WDAM

LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - A new law regarding purchases by all Mississippi government entities will go into effect on January 1st.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering made a stop by the Lamar County Supervisors meeting Thursday to shed light on a that new law.

"We are meeting with our local governments, boards of supervisors, school boards, as well as city councils and alderman across the State of Mississippi about the reverse auctions law," Pickering said. "It mandates that every government entity, state agencies, the state itself, as well as local governments must use a reverse auction process to purchase any commodities across the state."

The contracts or items that will be up for bid will go online and vendors will have their chance to put in a reverse bid, which will be at the cost of tax payers.

"This basically is an online website that contracts with a vendor, and everybody would bid instead of going up they are going to go down and get the best pricing," Pickering said.

"Sounds like a good idea on the surface until you realize who's going to run it, who's going to pay for the software, and state law does not allow vendors to pay for that," Pickering said. "That was how it was sold to through the legislature and we're trying to educate local governments that they have to be the ones to pay that. The local tax payers are going to be paying for these services to do reverse auctions, hopefully the savings will offset that, but in reality, it's a new way of doing purchase in Mississippi."

Lamar County Administrator Jody Waits said the county will work on their end to adapt to the change.

"What that's going to do ultimately is put an additional cost on the county to be able to set up that process and be able to take those bids," Waits said. "Currently, we take them by sealed bids which doesn't cost us any money, it's a system that works, and now were going to have to adapt to the new reverse bid system."

"We've had sealed bids, we've had open bidding process, we've had contracts, term contract that can be put in place, but now, everybody has to undo that, not use that come January 1st and go to this reverse auction and pay a company to do it for them," Pickering said.

Overall, most anything that government entities in the state would have a bid on will see the change.

"Basically, if a county or a city is going to buy a dump truck or buy toilet paper, they have to now go online and have a reverse auction process so that vendors can say, 'I'll sell it for a thousand dollars,' 'no I'll sell it for $950,' until it gets to the lowest bid and that's the winner," Pickering said. "This is a brand-new expense for government that was created by the Mississippi legislature. We've never had to pay for these kinds of things before, and now the legislature's mandate forces local governments now to have to pay for these new vendors, it's a new level and a new layer of the whole state purchasing system."

Pickering said he and his officer are working with the Mississippi State Extension office to see if they can come up with a solution either that has little or no cost to the governments.