ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) is coming to the defense of California's embattled multiple-award-schedule procurement program.

Known as the California Multiple Award Schedule (CMAS), the program faces growing scrutiny in the wake of a $95 million enterprise software licensing agreement between Oracle and the state of California. The deal was canceled after a state auditor's report charged it was a waste of money. Gov. Gray Davis and the state Legislature have since ordered reviews of the CMAS program and other state contracts that are not put up for formal bids.

ITAA President Harris Miller said CMAS -- which allows state agencies to avoid the competitive bidding process by purchase products from pre-approved providers at discount prices -- benefits state taxpayers.

"The information technology industry has watched with growing concern the recent events unfolding around pubic sector information technology procurements in California," said Miller in a letter to Davis. "We are fearful that short-term actions taken in response to the current situation may harm, not help, the laudable efforts of government agencies to acquire best value and price for IT products and services."

Compared to traditional government purchasing methods, multiple-award-schedule contracts significantly speed up the procurement process, according to the ITAA -- a critical concern in the constantly changing IT marketplace. The organization notes that these contracts are used successfully by the federal government and a number of states besides California.

Miller's letter to Davis included a list of recommendations for improving the CMAS program, including:

- Attracting more vendors to the CMAS program, in part by reducing or eliminating outdated, commercially nonviable contract terms;

- Matching terms and conditions to transaction complexity and using those embraced by the commercial marketplace;

- Channeling procurements through appropriate mechanisms and using the CMAS for low-risk, commodity purchasing under commercial terms and conditions; and

- Instituting internal management processes and methods that add to the competitive rigor of procurements while giving the marketplace a greater sense of certainty and evenhandedness.

Steve Towns, Editor Steve Towns  |  Editor

Steve Towns is editor of Government Technology, and executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government Technology,Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market.