More than 2,000 Puerto Rican companies have received their digital certifications through the government’s online bidders registry launched four months ago, General Services Administration Chief Olga M. de Cardona-Martínez told News is my Business.
The number is broken down into 482 new certificates and 1,631 re-certifications of bidders already in the agency’s records. The combined figure represents about 16 percent of the estimated 13,500 local businesses qualified to sell to the central government, she said.
“Our goal is to have all of them enlisted in our digital registry, the service is free and makes our job and their interaction with the government easier,” said Cardona-Martínez, a former Doral Bank executive.
That’s something that could be achieved in about two years, if the current sign-up rate holds, she said.
“We’re encouraging all businesses to use the digital tools we’re making available to them, although they can still come to the agency and do everything in person,” she noted. “However, using the online bidders registry expedites the certification process, as if they have all of their paperwork in order, the certificate can be issued on the spot. If they choose to do the process in person, that certificate can take one or two weeks to get issued.”
Through the online bidders registry, companies are required to scan and upload a series of documents that the GSA uses to verify their standing with other agencies, such as the State and Treasury Departments. Once the business is included in the online registry, they can sign up to receive procurement notices from the government via email.
The government invested some $300,000 to launch the online registry in May, with the goal of moving all central government agencies and buyers onto the platform.
Gaining direct access to the government’s procurement announcements could give local companies the inside track on major moneymaking opportunities, judging from last year’s numbers. In 2011, the central government spent more than $102.2 million in local purchases on everything from office supply goods to vehicle fleets.
The SGA chief confirmed that the five central government agencies — out of a total of 148 — with the highest purchasing totals are Family, Housing, Police, Education and Corrections.
Online procurement catalog under construction
The SGA is now working on preparing an online procurement catalogue, which could be ready before year’s end Cardona-Martínez.
“That’s an interagency effort, and we’re now working with Treasury to program and prepare our systems to include that catalogue that would ultimately expedite government purchases. Everything that every agency needs would be posted for the business community to see,” she said.
Also on the to-do list is setting up computers at the SGA’s regional offices in Mayagüez, Ponce, Guayama and Manatí to encourage rural businesses without access to such equipment to come in and file their certifications online, she said.
“The service would be free of charge and would help to somewhat bridge that digital and generational gap among those who don’t use computers in their day-to-day operations,” she said.