by Max Brantley
Public procurement practices have been much in the news lately. A Game and Fish commissioner disclosed to state finance officials his ownership in a paper company that bid on a statewide paper contract before he joined the commission, but failed to also put that ownership interest on his annual financial disclosure form and got written up for the oversight in the Democrat-Gazette today. The University of Central Arkansas struck a deal with a food service company for an upfront $700,000 rebate of fees in a contract extension to help pay for a presidential home renovation, but somehow left the erroneous impression it was a no-strings gift.
Then I got a call from a UALR employee with questions about a state memo that says, henceforth, all state employee car rentals must be done through a state contract with Enterprise Rent a Car. Even if she can get a cheaper deal? the employee asked.
Here's the state notice on the change to Enterprise.
UPDATE: Here's the fact sheet on rental charges, as little as $30.09 a day for an economy car, with five times that for a weekly rental.
After talking to Jane Benton, director of the state office of procurement, it sounds like a good deal to me. The state has not been bidding rental car contracts. Agencies had been making their own calls (and those with existing contracts may continue to honor them). Benton believed money could be saved by a comprehensive low-cost contract. She opted to join a national rental car contract negotiated with Enterprise by the national association of state procurement offices. The deal is about $30 a day for unlimited mileage. BUT NOTE: This includes insurance charges.
ALSO NOTE: Benton says employees can get approval for using another rental agency if they can demonstrate a cost saving. They also can use another agency where Enterprise doesn't operate. Benton notes that, in the realm of purchasing thousands and thousands of all sorts of things for hundreds of offices and thousands of employees, she's sure there are times when a single item can be bought cheaper. But a factor to remember is time invested in finding a marginal savings and the general aim of a guaranteed good value for the state on multiple purchases.
“Our objective was consistent pricing and to have as low a rate as possible,” Benton said.
The deal applies to all state agencies and that includes higher education institutions. Only state constitutional offices are exempt from the requirement. Benton noted that reservation by Internt would streamline the rental process and increase state control of rentals.
State agencies, by the way, are limited to full-size cars. No SUVs allowed, not even for football recruiters. Vans may be rented for group travel. Rentals, by the way, are allowed only where a cheaper option like a taxi or shuttle isn't available. At $30 a day, it could be cheaper to rent a car than reimburse an employee at 42 cents a mile (the current standard state rate) for use of a personal vehicle, depending on how much driving is required.