When people think of doing business with a government entity, they may not realize all that goes into the process. The word “procurement” may not even come to mind.
That’s one reason Governor Brad Little recently signed a proclamation establishing the month of March 2023 as Public Procurement Month.
In honor of this awareness campaign, we are highlighting Bannock County’s own Chief Procurement Officer, Shanda Crystal.
When she explains her job to people unfamiliar with what “procurement” means, Crystal tells them she helps connect county departments to vendors who can supply goods and services the department needs to do their jobs.
As Governor Little put it in his proclamation, “Idaho’s procurement professionals dedicate themselves to providing the best value for every taxpayer dollar.”
Crystal’s department is a relatively new one for Bannock County. The Board of Commissioners established the Procurement Department in February 2019.
Before this change, each individual department conducted its own procurement, leaving room for inconsistent processes.
By centralizing the county’s procurement process and establishing the Procurement Department, Crystal was able to establish a consistent process based on Idaho Code that both the public and the Board of Commissioners can rely on.
During her first year in the position, Crystal focused on streamlining. She updated Bannock County’s procurement policy, created standard forms, and moved the bidding process to an online platform using a popular software called Bonfire eProcurement Solution.
“These changes have been an incredible benefit to the County’s productivity. We’ve reduced the County’s liability, increased our reach to potential suppliers and vendors, and allows employees to concentrate on department priorities, rather than on procurement,” Crystal said.
Having a single source for vendors to call when questions arise has improved the experience for companies who do business with Bannock County. Moving the procurement process online has also had a positive impact.
“Some vendors were initially surprised by the shift to the online bidding process, but I’ve gotten great feedback about the ease of use and accessibility that Bonfire offers,” Crystal said.
Crystal has more plans to improve vendor experiences. She hopes to offer an annual vendor conference on how to do business with Bannock County and improve the procurement webpage to include process flow charts and other helpful resources for potential vendors.
One of Crystal’s first assignments as Chief Procurement Officer was to make a mission statement for her department. In it, she emphasizes being “earnest stewards of County resources,” which she said refers to everything including the County’s natural resources, County personnel, County assets, and the people who live and work in Bannock County.
“Being an ‘earnest steward’ means that I have a responsibility to taxpayers, vendors, elected officials, and departments to treat each project the same and move each project through the same process to ensure accountability,” Crystal said.
Centralizing the procurement process has had several benefits for Bannock County. Crystal is able to offer departments support as they make purchases, which allows staff to focus on other priority tasks while she handles the bidding process. She is also able to bring together a cross-section of county departments that offer unique perspectives on the best course of action to take.
“As I continue to build a network of suppliers, Bannock County will benefit from having more competition which has the potential for cost savings,” said Crystal, who was recently appointed as the Awards Chairman for the Idaho Public Purchasing Association. Crystal plans to utilize this appointment and focus on building relationships with political subdivisions throughout Eastern Idaho and connecting them to available resources.
Since taking on this role, Crystal has managed the procurement for several large projects, including finding the contractor and engineers for the construction of the Fort Hall Mine Landfill’s Cell 4 Expansion and the Portneuf Wellness Complex’s Gravity Fed Sewer System. She also established a contract for the provider of the County’s 911 emergency system upgrade and found the contractor to oversee the much-needed renovation of the Bannock County Detention Center’s roof. Currently, she’s focused on procuring the equipment and building renovations for the Eastern Idaho Forensic Pathology Center.