Procurement affects and is affected by the public sector organization as a whole, and the community it serves, whether at the local, state, or national level. Therefore, participation in the collaborative development and adoption of Public Procurement Values and Guiding Principles by all stakeholders is desired. As a way to show support for this collaborative initiative, professional organizations may join as a Supporting Organization. There is no time or financial commitment to becoming a Supporting organization. It simply means that the organization supports NIGP’s collaborative efforts to develop public procurement values, principles, and standards of practice. If the organization can share the word about the project with its members, that would be very valuable.

For more information, or to be added as a Supporting Organization, please contact Tina M. Borger, CPPO, Research Director for NIGP at

Introduction - Project History


On October 23, 2010, NIGP became the first public sector organization to adopt the Values and 27 related Guiding Principles for Public Procurement.

Historically, government procurement agents have relied on a patchwork of references to provide direction and best practices for our public service. Today, after 12 months of concerted effort by a dedicated NIGP task force of practitioners and academics, the public procurement profession has a definitive body of foundational Values and Guiding Principles.

The Values and Guiding Principles were developed by the task force with the input of over 200 responses received during a two-month public comment period.

What’s Next?

Building upon these Values and Guiding Principles, NIGP will lead and facilitate the collaborative development of Standards of Practice for Public Procurement with many public sector stakeholders. A number of key public sector organizations have already joined with NIGP and other public procurement organizations in the collaborative development of standardized guidance for public procurement, including:

Association of Government Accountants (AGA)

Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO)

National Association of Counties (NACo)

National League of Cities (NLC)

United States Conference of Mayors

In August 2009, the Board of Directors of the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP) adopted its 2009-2012 Strategic Plan with a primary objective to gain recognition of public procurement as a profession by developing guiding principles for public procurement. To this end, 2010 NIGP President Paul Brennan, CPPO, CPPB, C.P.M., Director of Purchasing for the County of Rockland, New York appointed a task force to develop the guiding principles and related descriptions that will underpin the future development of standards of practice through collaboration with key stakeholders.

NIGP Board member Marcheta E. Gillespie, CPPO, CPPB, C.P.M., CPM, Deputy Director of Procurement for the City of Tucson, Arizona, chaired the task force. Joining Ms. Gillespie in leading the project were Dr. Clifford P. McCue, Director, of the Public Procurement Research Center and Tina M. Borger, CPPO, Director of Research Director for NIGP.

The task force was rounded out with a diverse group of public procurement experts:  
  • Sharon T. (Gentry) Lewis, CPPB, VCO, A.P.P., Purchasing Manager, City of Roanoke, Virginia
  • Mary Beth Overturf, CPPO, C.P.M., Director of General Services, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska
  • Jeanette Rennie, C.P.P., Senior Contracts Officer, World Bank, Washington, DC
  • Adam L. Smith, CPPB, MA, JD, Chief Procurement Officer, City of Atlanta, Georgia
  • Stephanie R. Williams, CPPO, CPPB, Assistant Director, Division of Technology Services Procurement, Commonwealth of Kentucky
  • Brett M. Wood, CPPB, Senior Purchasing Administrator, Johnson County, Kansas
The task force and project leaders met at the NIGP offices in Herndon, Virginia on December 10-11, 2009. As the discussions began, it became clear that a good foundation must be established upon which to develop the Guiding Principles.

After considerable discussion and debate, the Task Force identified three pillars by which the Values of Public Procurement should be directed. Understanding that these pillars may not be applicable across all governments, but that they serve the basis for democratic governance, the following pillars were adopted as the basis for which the subsequent values and principles were to serve:

Public Trust: Public trust can be defined as the faith the public has in governments that are created to protect their basic freedoms. Each citizen has an expectation that government, and each member of the government, will discharge their duties in a competent manner and not abuse authority granted to them. Not only does the citizen pay for these services, but they have relinquished some of their individual rights and freedoms to ensure that the government has the ability to look after their well-being. Consequently, government employees are held to a far higher standard of conduct than their private sector and non profit counterparts. An abuse of authority always is a betrayal of the public trust and is not tolerated in a democratic society. All public procurement agencies, large or small, and the professionals who work in the field are dependent on a high level of public trust. Since society has entrusted them with the power to spend public resources efficiently and effectively, it is only natural that people are concerned that public procurement professionals do not abuse this power. Thus, public procurement operations are subject to intense public scrutiny.

Public Service: Government organizations touch people’s lives every day, in many different ways. Although there are great differences in the services agencies provide and the number of people they serve, a common concern is the need to make the best use of available financial and human resources. To do this, public employees serve a unique role in society. There is a general consensus that good governance requires good government employees. These employees must ensure that public organizations use their authority without bias. Further, public service must be viewed as a full-time commitment. Public service also entails a commitment to serve society with the utmost vigor, , respect, honesty, expertise, and fortitude to pursue the public interest. In some cases this may present a dilemma to the practitioner. That is, as stewards of the public trust, and as servants to the public welfare, procurement practitioners must consistently pursue their professional standards even at the expense of their personal beliefs.

Justice: Justice is the quality of being just, impartial or fair in how public procurement professionals discharge their responsibilities. Keeping that definition in mind, justice is best served when professionals exercise judgment within established legal frameworks to balance competing interests among all stakeholders and do so with the explicit intent to ensure that decisions and actions are proper, fair and appropriate.

The Task Force looked at statements by 45 countries and organizations around the world to ascertain common public procurement values and principles, and the various concepts were considered against the Pillars to determine the fit within this basic foundation.

The Task Force continued to refine the proposed Values and Guiding Principles subsequent to the December 2009 on site work.  On April 29, 2010, under the leadership of NIGP President Paul Brennan, CPPO, CPPB, C.P.M., the NIGP Board of Directors approved the release of the proposed Values and Guiding Principles for public comment and collaboration. 

About NIGP
NIGP is the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing. Since 1944, developing, supporting and promoting public procurement practitioners through premier educational and research programs, technical services and advocacy initiatives.
With over 2,600 member agencies representing over 16,000 professionals across the United States, Canada and countries outside of North America, the Institute is international in its reach.

Our goal is simple (though maybe not so easily attained): recognition and esteem for the government procurement profession and its dedicated practitioners.



  1. The definitions are very good, though I had to read several times to ensure that I grasped the essence of each definition.

  2. As a Supply Chain Management professional, and a public procurement program coordinator, it seems to me that there are a couple of Values missing from the Guiding Principles document prepared as the “Collaborative Review of Proposed Values, Principles, and Standards of Practices for Public Sector procurement”.

    The first Value is that of continuous improvement. In addition to the brief mention of continuous improvement [in terms of personal development] mentioned in the ‘Professionalism Value’, I firmly believe that Business Process Improvement (BPI) should be a core principle and guiding value for the procurement professional today, and in the future. Process improvement methodologies that incorporate innovation, reduce non-value added activities, and support faster and higher quality supply chain management services to our customers is a critical business need as budgets shrink and resources become more scarce.

    The other missing Value is that of “Sustainability”. Helping our customers make better purchasing decisions that balance the fiscal, environmental, and social impacts of our purchases is quickly becoming a pre-requisite for public purchasing professionals. Understanding, communicating, educating and identifying more responsible alternatives to the goods and services commonly purchased is a critical component of the “value proposition” of the governmental supply chain professional.

    If we, as public procurement professionals, want to excel in our organizations, be compensated fairly, and become leaders in the industry, then we need to incorporate continuous improvement methodologies and sustainability into our corporate structures and educational offerings.

    Thank you for your consideration to incorporating these values into the Guiding Principles.

    Best regards,


    Aiden M. Cohen
    Sustainability Senior Buyer
    Responsible (Green) Purchasing Program

    City of Austin
    Financial & Administrative Services Dept.
    Central Purchasing Office
    PO Box 1088
    Austin, TX 78767
    512-972-4008 (Office)
    512-972-4015 (Fax)

  3. Marshall KingMay 12, 2010

    I agree with Aiden on both items. Without continuous improvement how can someone apply "sound business judgement"?

    The Impartiality section states the use of "professional judgment within established legal frameworks to balance competing interests among all stakeholders". Professional judgement via a legal framework alone is insufficient when making decisions.

    His suggested use of BPI or BPM as a core principle/guiding value supports governance and transparency (& possibly sustainability). Two key items that help to reconcile stakeholder completing interests (agent theory).

    Governance deals more with movement from a financial and statutory framework to efficiency and effectiveness in policy making and day-to-day operations.

    Marshall King PMP
    Project Manager
    Seminole County Government, Florida

  4. Liza HankeMay 12, 2010

    I think it is a good foundation to build from.

  5. Rick LottMay 12, 2010

    You are all to be congratulated. This is truly good stuff. Solid values supported by well defined principles. Good flow, easy to follow, down to earth. Way to go.

  6. Nancy PrzymusMay 12, 2010

    A couple of thoughts: 1) Citizens do not give up their rights to the government if it is a representative government. Citizens are the government, so I would strike that notion that citizens have been made subject to the government and given up their rights for their own "well-being". 2)We are not public servants, we are public employees with rights of citizens so I would change the term from servant to public employee or public professional. 3)We are held to a higher standard because we spend the other citizens' tax dollars not because we have "great power". We, as public purchasing agents, have less power and latitude in decision making than private purchasers because we must follow laws and we must work in a transparent manner, whereas, private industry purchasing agents can operate in the dark and often have to make the bottom line decisions that are in conflict with varying ethics.

    Question: How many public purchasing professionals have to act in violation of their personal beliefs? If the law is made the purchasing professional must follow it until the law is changed. Are you saying that purchasing professionals must follow laws that are in violation of the "rule of Law" then we have a problem. Fortunately, I have not been asked to enforce a law that is contrary to my ethics. If I were asked to enforce a law, say, the legislature tells me I have to discriminate against women owned businesses, I would not do it. My professional ethics would tell me the law is unfair and unjust and it becomes my duty, as a citizen publically employed professional, to oppose such a law even if it means I must resign. I cannot subject my ethics to laws that violate "rule of law".

    This leads to the gaping hole in this ethics foundation. Public Purhcasers are constantly pressured by publically elected officals to bend the rules. The ethics of our profession should say that one of our challenges is to hold others in the government accountable to the citizens and the vendor community. We must make others follow a standard that can bear the light of scrutiny of the citizenry and the press. We must be fairness and open with public expenditures. We are the thin line of administrative accountability needed to keep the government contracting system operating fairly and with the best value for the taxpayer in mind.

  7. Ed MedynskiMay 12, 2010

    The Pillars are excellent virtues to guide us. I would suggest making them more general in terms and shorter in length. I agree with another's comment that we be defined as government employees as opposed to "servants" - with that, the rules of employer/employee relationships should dictate our conduct rather than relying on the strict descriptions provided in the Pillars.

  8. AnonymousMay 12, 2010

    > Under the definition for PUBLIC TRUST and I quote "but they (citizens) have relinquished some of their individual rights and freedoms to ensure that the government has the ability to look after their well-being". Is my opinion that citizens should not give up any rights because of the desire of doing business with a Procurement Agency.
    > The definition for JUSTICE is great, but I sugest to include a Pilar named "LAW". Keep in mind tha in a Governmental Process Justice is not alwas served by the Admistration of Law.

  9. This is a good start but there some statements seem to have been pulled from other documents that do not apply. For example in Pillar 1, Public Trust, there is a statement: "An abuse of this power always is a betrayal of the public trust and is seldom tolerated in a democratic society." An abuse of public trust is never tolerated and this lack of tolerance exists regardless of the structure of the government.

    Pillar 2 has the statement: "These employees, public servants, must ensure that public organizations are relatively stable over time, and that they apply general rules without bias." What does the phrase relatively stable over time mean? As public procurement professionals, we should have clear, transparent procedures and processes that we apply consistently and without bias, but I do not understand what this has to do with ensuring that we have a stable organization.

    Lastly, I have trouble with the tone of Pillar 3. I agree that we should be fair and impartial but as procurement professionals, we are not only bound by the rule of law. We also have internal procedures and rules that are neither mandated by statute nor fall within "established legal frameworks.” In addition, this reads as if we are "justices" sitting on a mythical bench handing out rulings. The procurement process is not just guided by our interpretations of the rules we do have to analyze each proposal/bid and some of that analysis is technical and mathematical. None of these additional analyses are conducted in a vacuum; we collaborate with many other parties such as our users, cost price team and engineers. Moreover, the laws that regulate procurement do not affect these additional analyses.

    Amanda Phillips, CPPB, JD
    Contract Supervisor

  10. AnonymousMay 13, 2010

    This sets a solid foundation to build from.

  11. At first I was inclined to give a pass to these pillars and focus on the values and principles, but if these are going to appear in official publication, then thanks for the good start but I agree more work is in order. In addition to the other constructive comments, I'd like to say the phrase at the end of the Public Service pillar needs deletion or change: procurement folks must "pursue their professional standards even at the expense of their personal beliefs," in reference back to public interest. I do not think there are enough procuerment staff whose personal beliefs are out of step with both the public interest and professional standards to warrant any mention. (On the other hand, we all encounter other gov't staff that have a 'different' idea of what public interest means, and pressure us to bypass our professional standards.)

    Jon Walton, J.D., CPPB
    State of Oregon

  12. AnonymousMay 17, 2010

    I love this "procurement practitioners must consistently pursue their professional standards even at the expense of their personal beliefs" often staff forget this.

  13. Mike Sabol, CPPB (Retired)May 17, 2010

    Just a general comment on the entire process!

    My overall work within private and public procurement in the past 30 years has convinced me that if I hadn't done all that you have captured here, I would have been out of a job (at best) or in jail (worst case) early on in my procurement career.

    This is an overall great piece of work. We sometimes get bogged down in details and minutia, but kudos to all who worked on it and commented on it. Keep it up!

  14. AnonymousMay 17, 2010

    After years in the large corporate private sector of purchasing, I moved to the public arena last summer--in my home city. Many new things to learn about process and procedures,Open Records and how to train departments on solid purchasing practices, but the pillars and values of the profession remain the same. I have observed changes in public purchasing and moves toward more "private" practices, such as strategic sourcing and e-procurement. These are good things and those creating our policies should consider this healthy mix. I don't consider myself a "servant" but a purchasing professional "employee" who works for an agency (and is spending my own tax dollars!) As info, below are the Institute for Supply Management's Purchasing Principles. If you are a C.P.M. or CPSM, you know them. Some are not exactly applicable as written but the theme is the same. And, they are succinct.

    Prevent the intent and appearance
    of unethical or compromising conduct
    in relationships, actions and
    Ensure that any personal, business or
    other activity does not conflict with
    the lawful interests of your employer.
    Avoid behaviors or actions that may
    negatively influence, or appear to influence,
    supply management decisions.
    Uphold fiduciary and other responsibilities
    using reasonable care and
    granted authority to deliver value to your
    Promote positive supplier and customer
    Champion social responsibility and
    sustainability practices in supply
    Protect confidential and proprietary
    Avoid improper reciprocal agreements.
    Know and obey the letter and spirit of
    laws, regulations and trade agreements
    applicable to supply management.
    Develop skills, expand knowledge and
    conduct business that demonstrates
    competence and promotes the supply
    management profession.

  15. AnonymousMay 20, 2010

    As a public procurement professional, I strongly believe that the 3 pillars establish a solid ground upon which the values and principles defined can reasonably rest.In their interaction, all three will lead toward achieving the Government's ultimate goal which can be simply stated as: buying more and better, while spending less.
    I do agree however with Aiden when he points out that "there are a couple of Values missing from the Guiding Principles document". In fact, both of them, "continuous improvement" and "sustainability" are key elements in the supply chain management services. Incorporating these values into the Guiding Priciples can only benefit to all of us practitioners.

  16. AnonymousJune 03, 2010

    Along with Aiden, I too think that "Sustainability" should be included as well as "Socially Responsible" elements such as "Sweat Free" principles. We have an opportunity to set the bar and I think we should shoot high so that the rest of society will join in the cause.

  17. AnonymousJune 08, 2010

    I disagree with including "Sustainability" or "Social Responsibility" as part of the pillars. I know that some people have very strong feelings about this but, I would argue that most taxpayers just want the most "bang for their buck" and they want it done in an efficient and ethical manner. If a sustainable product/service fits that category, great! But adding social issues to the pillars is not, in my opinion, the direction that should be taken. For example, I feel strongly that we should support American companies as much as possible. But I am not suggesting that we should add "Patriotism" language to the pillars.

  18. Sustainability is a critical part of Public Procurement. It should be respected and included as an integral part of any substantive agenda.