STAbuy prices not good enough for schools

Lack of use is being blamed for the School Trustees Association's STAbuy electronic procurement portal teetering on the brink of closure.

Lack of use is being blamed for the School Trustees Association’s STAbuy electronic procurement portal teetering on the brink of closure.

The association’s executive is in discussions about the future of the portal, which has come nowhere close to snaffling the forecast $1.2 billion of the $3.5 billion spent by schools each year.

Schools spoken to by Computerworld either hadn’t heard of STAbuy or found it didn’t offer any advantage over traditional buying channels.

Auckland Normal Intermediate school administrator Maxine Curac says the school was registered but didn’t use the portal very often because its prices weren’t good enough.

The portal’s professed aim was providing bulk buying privileges by aggregating buyers and suppliers.

Curac says she bought Air New Zealand tickets for a staff member to attend a conference and was disappointed to find out later that it would have been cheaper to buy them through Freedom Air’s website.

“We have some suppliers whom we’ve negotiated good deals with ourselves so we stuck with them. Some suppliers on STAbuy were actually more expensive. You’d expect with the bulk buying they could have matched or bettered what we can get for ourselves.”

Curac says it’s also difficult to let staff know what is available on the site as each one had to have a password and then go the site to find out. “Whereas suppliers will often send through a fax saying they’ve got a good price on something, for STAbuy you had to go there and have a look and people just didn’t bother.”

Northland College in Kaikohe hadn’t heard of STAbuy. Apart from the fact that the school wasn’t aware of the portal, head of science David Hutchinson says individual departments look after their own procurement.

Robin Hicks, network administrator for Woodford House girls school in Hawke’s Bay, says the school prefers to deal face to face with suppliers and has built good relationships with wholesalers and ICT providers. He says cost is obviously an issue but the school feels that it gets good prices through its relationships.

STAbuy was made available for use by 2400 schools to enable them to locate suppliers of goods and services and provide transparency in purchasing. The initial launch was held up by the complex nature of an agreement between the NZSTA, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young — which supplied consulting and venture capital — and Oracle, which supplied the software platform.

STAbuy charges suppliers 1% of the transaction cost. Revenues were to be fed back to pay for its operation. Both CGEY and Oracle originally planned to use the portal as a reference site but CGEY pulled out of the venture late last year.

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