Cooperative Contracts

Frequently Asked Questions

Why and How to Buy through DIR's Cooperative Contracts Program

  1. What is DIR's Cooperative Contracts program and why choose DIR?​​
  2. Who can buy through DIR?
  3. Do I have to go through the competitive bid process and release a solicitation in order to buy through DIR?
  4. Am I allowed to negotiate further discounts with a DIR-contracted vendor?
  5. How are purchases made through the DIR Cooperative Contracts program?
  6. How do I find a product or service?
  7. What if I need an IT service or product not offered on a DIR contract?
  8. Do DIR-contracted technology products and services qualify for E-Rate?
  9. How do I get a waiver for commodity purchases? This applies to Texas state agencies only.
  10. Can I buy from HUB/MWBE vendors through DIR?

How DIR Contracts are Awarded

  1. Can state contracts be awarded without going through a bid process?
  2. How are vendors approved by DIR?
  3. What is the process for being added to DIR’s list of Master Contract vendors?
  4. Once a Master Contract is awarded, who manages it?
  5. How does DIR’s Cooperative Contracts’ Master Contract differ from an agency-issued purchase contract?
  6. Why does the state use a Master Contract and a separate purchase contract for technology procurement?
  7. Are DIR Master Contracts generic contracts with no information on products, services, or prices?
  8. Are Master Contracts reviewed by the Contracting Advisory Team?
  9. Are DIR Master Contracts required to go through the Quality Assurance Team (QAT)?
  10. What categories of Master Contracts does DIR offer through the Cooperative Contracts program?
  11. Has the DIR Cooperative Contracts program been reviewed or audited by a third party?

These FAQs may be revised following the 84th Legislative Session.

1. What is DIR's Cooperative Contracts program and why choose DIR?

DIR’s Cooperative Contracts program is a streamlined cooperative purchasing program with over 750+ Master Contracts (MCs) for technology products and services. MCs cover offerings for hardware, software, staffing services, maintenance, and other services—such as managed services and technology training.

Buying through the Cooperative Contracts program helps you:

  • Save time. All Master Contracts awarded by DIR have been competitively bid to meet state purchasing requirements, and all MC terms have been negotiated to comply with state law. The solicitation process—including evaluating market need; posting a request for offer; evaluating bids; negotiating pricing, terms, and conditions based on unique public-sector needs; and making the award—can take many months. DIR’s work in these areas allows agencies to purchase directly through a Master Contract knowing this process is complete. This allows organizations that use this contracting program to focus their efforts on the final steps of the procurement process: seeking several final offers from awarded vendors to secure the lowest possible price for each purchase transaction. For more information on the DIR procurement process, please see the items in the section, “How DIR Contracts are Awarded,” featured later on this page.
  • Save money. DIR Master Contracts offer carefully negotiated minimum discounts on hundreds of products and services. This program leverages the volume buying power of the state to negotiate competitive pricing, which translates into savings for your organization. DIR customers can negotiate even deeper discounts based on individual purchase volumes. This is accomplished by issuing purchase proposals, statements of work or requests to multiple DIR vendors in order to drive price competition for the final purchase award.

2. Who can buy through DIR?

  • Public entities within the State of Texas. You are eligible to buy through DIR if you are with a Texas state agency, county, local government office, or public education entity. For more information and legal citations, see DIR Customer Eligibility.
  • Public entities outside the State of Texas. An out-of-state government entity may purchase under a DIR Master Contract (Gov’t Code §§ 2157.068 and 2054.0565). Entities with an Inter-local Agreement with DIR may purchase under the DIR Cooperative Contracts program just like a Texas governmental entity. View Resources for Customers Outside Texas for more information on procuring technology through DIR.

3. Do I have to go through the competitive bid process and release a solicitation in order to buy through DIR?

No.​ DIR has already performed all state of Texas competitive procurement requirements. You no longer have to prepare competitive solicitations or evaluate responses, since we have completed that work for you. TGC 054.0565 (b) states that Cooperative Contracts meets the competitive requirements for all governmental entities. However, agencies may request quotes or statements of work from multiple MCs if they feel it is necessary or appropriate for a specific transaction. DIR encourages agencies to do so in order to further compete for best value for each individual purchase contract that an agency is preparing to issue.

 

4. Am I allowed to negotiate further discounts with a DIR contracted vendor?

Yes, we encourage you to negotiate even deeper discounts if you’re buying large quantities.

5. How are purchases made through the DIR Cooperative Contracts program?

Agencies engage directly with vendors that have been awarded Master Contracts, without processing requests through DIR. Customer agencies can choose any awarded vendor as long as the commodity or service being purchased fits within the scope and category of the Master Contract held by the vendor. To engage directly with a vendor, view the “How to Order” information on a DIR vendor’s contract page on the DIR website.

6. How do I find a product or service?

It’s easy. Here’s how to search for the IT product or service you’re looking for:

  • At the top of the page, enter a keyword term in the search box.
  • Once the search results populate the page, check the filter box under “Content Type”
  • Select “All Contracts & Services.”
  • From there, further refine search results by filtering via product type, NIGP commodity code, or other filter categories.

You can also view a tutorial of the updated search tool we developed to make finding technology and services easy for you.

7. What if I need an IT service or product not offered on a DIR contract?

If you need something that DIR does not have on contract, let us know by filling out our New Product Service Request Form. We may:

  • Be able to find a solution or an alternative for the specific product or service you need
  • Be able to amend a current contract for additional products or services, or
  • Consider pursuing a contract for those items: We add products and services based on customer demand

Please email your request form or utilize the Cooperative Contracts contact list information under Contract DIR to reach us by email or phone.

8. Do DIR contracted technology products and services qualify for E-Rate?

Yes, some of our contracts are eligible for E-Rate funding. The green E-Rate symbol, E-Rate Qualified, found on the contract detail page indicates that DIR has filed the form 470 for that contract and it is eligible for E-Rate funding.

Click here for more information about E-Rate.

10. Can I buy from HUB/MWBE vendors through DIR?

Yes. Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) and/or Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) vendors do hold Master Contracts with DIR. You can search for HUB vendors by entering a product or service keyword in the search box, refining your search by selecting “All Contracts and Services," and then filtering by “HUB” under Vendor Type.

11. Can state contracts be awarded without going through a bid process?

All Master Contract agreements established by DIR are awarded through an open and competitive procurement process, beginning with a formal and public Request for Offers (RFO). Once DIR awards a Master Contract within the Cooperative Contracts program, agencies may issue purchase contracts under that MC (by reference) without further competitive action. Agencies may then request quotes or statements of work from multiple MCs if they feel it is necessary or appropriate for a specific transaction. DIR encourages agencies to do so in order to further compete for best value for each individual purchase contract that an agency is preparing to issue. [Government Code, §§ 2155.504 and 2054.0565]

The RFO process is defined in Government Code §2157.068, §2157.006, and §2157.003, and Texas Administrative Code, Title 1, Chapter 212.

By statute, all state purchase contracts require competitive bidding unless the intended purchases qualify as emergency purchases, proprietary purchases, or open enrollment contracts (See Government Code, Chapter 2155). The DIR Cooperative Contracts program does not use these alternative methods when awarding DIR Master Contracts.

12. How are vendors approved by DIR?

A vendor is awarded a Master Contract by DIR only after successfully completing a competitive procurement process beginning with a Request for Offers (RFO). This process ensures all Master Contract awards, including all terms and conditions of each contract, comply with state law. Should a vendor fail to agree with state terms and conditions, an MC will not be awarded. All DIR contracts are awarded based on competitive bidding as specified by the State of Texas Procurement Manual.

13. What is the process for being added to DIR’s list of Master Contract vendors?

The RFO process requires an offer from a vendor to the posted RFO, followed by an evaluation from a DIR evaluation team. Offers further undergo negotiations for pricing, scope, and terms and conditions (as necessary). If a vendor is awarded a Master Contract in response to the RFO, the MC is posted on the DIR website for use by eligible government customers. The vendor is limited to providing products and services that are defined within the scope of the underlying RFO and are identified within the Master Contract.

14. Once a Master Contract is awarded, who manages it?

DIR contract managers monitor vendor Master Contract performance and sales reports. Vendors are required to submit sales reports by the 15th day of each month reflecting their sales activity during the prior month. Each customer, including all state agencies, is required to follow its own internal policies and state law relating to contract, procurement, and ethics when purchasing through a DIR MC. Note: All DIR MC sales data can be viewed at https://data.texas.gov.

15. How does DIR’s Cooperative Contracts’ Master Contract differ from an agency-issued purchase contract?

The DIR-issued Master Contract entitles the vendor to compete with other vendors with similar Master Contracts for procurement opportunities within state agencies. The MC is governed by procurement statute, rule, and policy, but it is a zero-dollar transaction. Instead, it establishes the vendor has met state requirements for open competition, financial and performance standards, requirements for experience providing the offered goods and services, and all required legal terms and conditions.

A purchase contract issued by an agency may take the form of a license agreement, a statement of work, or a purchase order as appropriate for the service or commodity being purchased by that agency. Unlike the Master Contract, the agency purchase contact has a specific financial commitment for the issuing agency and results in an agency-issued purchase order that references the DIR MC number.

16. Why does the state use a Master Contract and a separate purchase contract for technology procurement?

This model is the result of many different efforts over the years to improve government efficiency. Master Contracts maximize fair and open competition and business opportunities in the state, and centralize procurement and negotiation expertise for technology-related items. Using Master Contracts as a basis for establishing separate purchase contracts provides a time-saving way to apply consistent and sound business practices that comply with state law and provide flexibility in meeting a broad range of agency needs.

17. Are DIR Master Contracts generic contracts with no information on products, services, or prices?

No. The MCs awarded in the Cooperative Contracts program include specific categories and product and services listings with negotiated price discounts or not-to-exceed pricing.

18. Are Master Contracts reviewed by the Contracting Advisory Team?

The multi-agency Contract Advisory Team (CAT) reviews solicitations, including proposed contract terms. DIR reviews its cooperative contract solicitation and Master Contract templates annually with CAT, or more often if needed. Since the terms are identical for each category of MC, the Contract Advisory Team determined that a review of the templates is appropriate. For more info on CAT see http://www.window.state.tx.us/procurement/res/CAT.

19. Are DIR Master Contracts required to go through the Quality Assurance Team (QAT)?

No. The Quality Assurance Team provides quality assurance reviews for specific, defined sets of technology projects. Often large technology projects include agency-issued purchase contracts under DIR Master Contracts, but the QAT mission is to assess a project based on the schedule, budget, and scope commitments made to state leadership. For more info on QAT see: http://qat.state.tx.us

20. What categories of Master Contracts does DIR offer through the Cooperative Contracts program?

Commodities (hardware, software, and managed services), IT staffing, and Deliverables-Based IT Services (DBITS).

21. Has the DIR Cooperative Contracts program been reviewed or audited by a third party?

Yes. Since 2010, the DIR Cooperative Contracts program has undergone two Sunset Commission reviews, one DIR Internal Audit review, two State Auditor’s Office audits, two Statewide Single Audits performed by KPMG on behalf of the State Auditor’s Office, and one independent third-party (Gartner) assessment initiated by DIR.