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The Daily Tar Heel

Online Shopping Aims To Help State Budget

The program will begin July 1 and is expected to be fully implemented in three years.

The initiative, known as e-procurement, is aimed at decreasing paperwork and allowing companies statewide to bid on the services or goods of various vendors.

The Web-based system is expected to create more competition for goods and services, lowering prices and reducing taxes for residents.

"Enabling the state to purchase goods and services from a network of vendors in a Web-based system will result in a significant cost savings to taxpayers," Easley said.

"This system will be available to local governments allowing for savings across the board."

The state is currently suffering from a budget shortfall some fiscal analysts say could hit $750 million.

After receiving approval this month from the Information Resource Management Commission, the Office of Information Technology Services and Accenture exercised a portal contract option that allows for the e-procurement initiative to proceed.

The self-funded public/private partnership will not require any state appropriations. It will be funded by marketing fees paid by the vendors for the online usage.

Vendors will pay 1.75 percent of their total business accumulated by the Online service.

According to a press release from Easley's office, e-procurement programs have been used in private industries with savings between 3 and 10 percent. The private industries also have seen a reduction in purchase orders by 67 percent.

And more than one-half of states have e-procurement initiatives on some level.

According to a report done by Gartner, a technology research firm, 77 percent of government chief information officers plan to implement an e-procurement program within the next three years.

But North Carolina is one of the first to implement the program statewide.

"The success of this e-procurement project will serve as a model for states across the country," Easley said.

"Our commitment to this venture ensures that North Carolina will continue to be a leader in information technology."

Easley and others praised those involved for their efforts to help alleviate the state's budget problems.

"A great example of what we can do when we all work together," said Sen. Eric Reeves, D-Wake.

And Easley said the belt-tightening was not just a fiscal move.

"In our tight fiscal environment, we need to look for savings around every possible corner, but this project is not just about saving money." he said.

"It is about moving forward and renewing our commitment to one North Carolina."

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