The General Services Administration needs better data collection methods to improve the pricing and performance of its Multiple Award Schedules program, according to an oversight audit.
The Government Accountability Office report released on Monday found that limitations with GSA’s two electronic procurement tools, e-Buy and GSA Advantage, hinder the agency’s ability to collect data about purchases under the schedules program. For example, GSA Advantage is used to procure goods but not services. E-Buy can be used for requests for proposals of any size but cannot process orders greater than $3,000. In addition, because agencies can place orders directly with multiple award schedule vendors, GSA Advantage accounted for only 1.5 percent of sales in 2008.
In comments on the report, GSA said because of the tools’ limitations, customer agencies and vendors control purchase information, making it difficult for GSA to aggregate and evaluate trends.
The Multiple Award Schedules program — government’s largest interagency contracting initiative — recently has come under fire for not meeting customers’ needs. The Multiple Award Schedules Advisory Panel, comprised of representatives from both government and industry, in March published a list of 20 recommendations to improve the program.
According to Alan Chvotkin, a panel member and executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council, a contractor trade association, the schedules program has evolved from offering commodities to providing solutions and services, and the pricing methodologies might not suit what agencies are buying today. The panel recommended GSA remove from supply and services contracts the price reduction clause, which states if a vendor lowers prices for its target customer, then it also must do so for government. Solutions contracts already are free of this clause and should remain that way, the panel said.
But the GAO audit suggested GSA proceed with caution on the advisory panel’s assertions. For example, GAO found GSA lacks data to support the panel’s assessment that the price reduction clause rarely is used. Without good information, GSA cannot determine how the Multiple Award Schedule program serves customers’ needs, evaluate program performance or negotiate best prices, the report found.
“Our prior work has highlighted the importance of having comprehensive spend data as part of a successful approach to procurement, noting that the use of procurement data to determine how much is being spent for goods and services and to identify buyers and suppliers can identify opportunities to leverage buying, save money and improve performance,” GAO wrote. The audit recommended GSA expand its use of electronic purchasing tools or launch a pilot data collection program.
GSA in fiscal 2011 plans to upgrade GSA Advantage with Web 2.0 features, better search capabilities and links to other contracting vehicles to streamline customers’ experiences with electronic purchasing.
Lawmakers on Monday expressed concern over GAO’s findings.
“To improve the system, the [Obama] administration must collect better data on these contracts and use it to ensure the mission requirements of federal agencies are met in a timely, cost-effective manner,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in a statement. “The Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the General Services Administration must take aggressive and coordinated action to address GAO’s recommendations and help ensure that taxpayer dollars are used wisely.”
— By Emily Long – NetGov.com – 05/25/2010