Anthony Thomas, commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement, told lawmakers on Monday that the U.S. Virgin Islands has begun utilizing an electronic procurement and government bid notification software.
The new programs allow all executive branch agencies to manage procurement-related activities in one centralized system, Thomas told a budget hearing of the V.I. Senate Finance Committee.
Thomas said Central Stores, a division within the department, has collected more than $500,000 in the year to date, but is poised to increase these earnings upon the full launch of the system in February. Within the system – which the department is calling GVIBUY – is a marketplace feature that allows buyers to shop from a collection of the territory’s contracts.
“The government will host and deploy its first marketplace shopping experience for the territory,” Thomas said. “The marketplace shopping portal will provide immediate access to Central Stores’ digital catalogue, as well as the department will have access to a larger pool of wholesale providers including those approved by the General Services Administration. We anticipate our sales will increase exponentially once the marketplace module of the e-Pro system goes live in February of 2022.”
According to a letter issued by Thomas and addressed to all government vendors, though the live launch doesn’t occur until next year, there are steps vendors should take to prepare for the transition.
The new software requires all bid solicitations, contracts, purchase orders, and invoicing be inputted through the system. To access the network, suppliers must register their business during the open registration beginning Sept. 7 and complete registration by Oct. 8.
Thomas said registration is free for suppliers and “required to continue doing business with the territory.”
The entire system is being operated by Periscope Holdings Inc., a company specializing in government procurement for over two decades.
According to the company’s website, the marketplace feature was created exclusively for the public sector to “deliver a shopping experience, while maintaining the accountability required for public sector procurement.”
The accountability and transparency surrounding the withstanding procurement process in the Virgin Islands has created numerous counts of speculation and proved problematic in practice. For over a decade, legislators have pinpointed various entities that did not follow the procurement process correctly.
By adopting the new software, Thomas said, the department “has changed business as usual by engaging in transformative approaches to addressing longstanding issues within the Government of the Virgin Islands.”
Sen. Samuel Carrion commended the commissioner for the department’s approach, having said it was a “good start.”
“I think that a good initiative, digitalizing and getting up to par with technology. I know that’s part of this administration’s focus and I think that’s a good direction moving forward,” Carrion said.
Sens. Marvin Blyden, Carrion, Dwayne DeGraff, Kurt Vialet, Javan James Sr., and Janelle Sarauw were present for the hearing. Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory was absent. Additional non-committee members also attended the hearing.