By Emily Long 03/11/10
A changing acquisition landscape and inconsistent policy implementation are behind a push to update the General Services Administration’s contract practices, according to procurement professionals.
The Multiple Award Schedules Advisory Panel, made up of stakeholders from GSA, agency users and industry, published on Monday its 20 recommendations to improve the structure, use and pricing of GSA’s schedules program.
The recommendations acknowledge the program, which has evolved from offering commodities to providing solutions and services, and the pricing methodologies might not suit what agencies are buying today, said Alan Chvotkin, a panel member and executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council, a contractor trade association.
Although the schedules have been a useful tool for agencies looking for commercially available services and products, “MAS has needed a lot of rehab because it hasn’t kept up with the wide expansion of services and products that are out there,” said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer at FedSources, a market research firm.
One of the panel’s tasks was to determine the future of the price reduction clause, which states if a vendor lowers prices for its target customer, then it also must do so for government. The panel recommended GSA remove the clause from supply and services contracts and, in turn, not apply the provision to solutions.
“[Some are] mischaracterizing the panel’s recommendations regarding the price reduction clause,” Chvotkin said. “We did recommend eliminating it, but the mischaracterization is that we said, ‘Do away with it.’ We proposed replacing it with other tools and techniques to help buying agencies.”
Chvotkin said GSA can’t simply eliminate the clause, so the recommendations in part were designed to build transparency and visibility for purchasing agencies. They ask, for example, for GSA to develop more information about individual orders, give benchmark data and provide more disclosure about how it establishes reasonable prices.
Bjorklund said one of the report’s less explicit themes is that GSA and contractors must apply policies consistently and coherently, which will help companies to sign up for multiple schedules.
The report also proposes governmentwide adoption of Section 803, a provision from the 2002 National Defense Authorization Act that previously applied only to the Defense Department. The policy would require agencies gathering bids for more than $100,000 in task and delivery orders to solicit all schedule contractors and collect bids from at least three.
Some of the changes are regulatory and administrative, Chvotkin said, adding the only statutory change — adopting Section 803 — has congressional approval. “It’s a leadership challenge more than a technical challenge,” he said.
Larry Allen, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement and a panel member, hopes the recommendations receive fair examination. “The report was designed to improve the schedules program. It would be a shame not to pilot test them,” he said.
GSA executives, including Administrator Martha Johnson, Chief Acquisition Officer Michael Robertson and the incoming head of the Federal Acquisition Service who has yet to be named, will review the recommendations and implement any changes.
GSA on Thursday confirmed that the administrator received the report.