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eBay for Gov: How Michigan Built Its Own Secure Auction Site

The state recently launched an in-house secure online auction site, overcoming unique challenges. The project is projected to save the state $250,000 a year. Here’s a look at the most popular items listed.

MiBid is the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget’s new online auction website for surplus sales.
Michigan’s state agencies have been holding onto items that sit and collect dust. Recently, the state enhanced the process for getting rid of the clutter through the launch of MiBid, a new online auction website for surplus sales.

The site is generating buzz; within a week of its launch the site attracted more than 1,100 bids on 120 listings, amounting to at least $285,000 in auction sales for the state — a significant portion from the sale of vehicles that will require the new owner to tow them out of the parking lot.

It’s the first time the state has had an external, public-facing auction site that has been hosted internally. A previous site was hosted by a third-party vendor, but as the contract neared expiration, an idea for an in-house website that would enhance security and provide a greater user experience developed. The surplus services department created a statement of work and approached the Department of Technology, Management and Budget with the potential project.

The collaboration resulted in a platform that provides an improved bidding experience, up-to-date security features, additional payer options and enhanced bidder confidentiality. By creating the website in-house, DTMB projects an annual savings of nearly $250,000.
“The new in-house solution meets all state of Michigan security requirements,” wrote Laura Wotruba, director of communications for DTMB, in an email to Government Technology. “There are features that not only enhance security but provide bidders with privacy. For example, bidders on the old site would often comment about being able to see other bidders who were bidding on auctions. Due to this feedback, bidder privacy was a measure we wanted to consider and address.”

The new platform allows customers to create a secured login profile on MiLogin, and gives them the opportunity to make payments through a secured payment process called the Centralized Electronic Payment and Authorization System (CEPAS). MiLogin is a one-stop login solution that connects users to all of the state’s services through one single user ID. The same login profile can be used to access all of the state’s services, including renewing a driver’s license, filing for unemployment and viewing the status of a state tax return.

“Another security enhancement was leveraging the state’s secured payment process through CEPAS to comply with state of Michigan cybersecurity policies,” wrote Wotruba. “Being able to maintain the application’s architecture and infrastructure while following the latest cybersecurity protocols that the state of Michigan utilizes was a must. Having our site on the state of Michigan network requires the site to go through routine scans for vulnerabilities to ensure continued attention to remediation for the most secured experience.”

According to DTMB, the new site was a very large project that required multiple team leaders and a collaboration between the surplus services supervisor, Ron Turner, IT Manager Ryan Latourette and IT Project Manager Navpreet Gothra.

The project posed several challenges, including supporting real-time updates on a public-facing website while preserving security. The team also needed to make sure the site was compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Before launching the new platform, the team spent hours testing to make sure it met requirements.

Government Technology analyzed activity from the first week of the website’s operation and found the following notable trends:
  • Police vehicles received, on average, more bids than government passenger vehicles. 
  • Items in the “Building and construction equipment and supplies items” category received the most bids, with an average of 52 bids compared to the auction site average of nine bids. 
  • Auction items identified as coming from the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital attracted no bids.
In addition to the new auction site, DTMB hosts in-person sales each month if inventory allows. The state surplus team works with state agencies to reuse and sell surplus property that includes items seized by police, items voluntarily suspended at airports, surplus property from local public colleges and items that are no longer needed by government agencies.
Nikki Davidson is a data reporter for Government Technology. She’s covered government and technology news as a video, newspaper, magazine and digital journalist for media outlets across the country. She’s based in Monterey, Calif.