Schedules panel finalizing recommendations

Friday - 2/6/2009, 7:30am EST

Elliott Branch, Director of Contracts, Naval Seas Systems Command

GSA's Multiple Awards Schedule Advisory Panel is plugging along in their mission to save government money.

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
FederalNewsRadio

The Multiple Award Schedule panel is preparing its final report to the General Services Administration's administrator with recommendations on how to improve schedule contracts.

Eliot Branch, director of contracts with the Naval Sea Systems Command and chairman of the panel, says there will be some significant changes to how the schedule programs work.

"We made the decision long ago on the panel that we would not design the solution to the problems," Branch says during an interview on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Jane Norris Feb. 5. "We will let people closer to the problem--the people with [GSA's] Federal Acquisition Services really sit down with agency customers and decide the best way to do it. We were focused on the what and not the how."

Branch adds that the panel will submit their final report at the beginning of March to acting GSA administrator Paul Prouty, and then the panel will disband.

GSA set up the panel last April to review and make recommendations to GSA's schedules' pricing policies. GSA chose both federal and private sector experts to serve on the panel, which met about twice a month.

Branch said the recommendations fall in four or five main areas.

Two of the most significant ones include removing the price reduction clause, and requiring agencies and GSA to provide more pricing data.

Branch says the panel decided that the price reduction clause is no longer needed because it is not effective to achieve fair and reasonable prices.

"What we've offered up is an alternative that emphasizes competition at the task order level," Branch says. "Our conclusion is the forces of competition will drive fair and reasonable pricing."

He adds that GSA should develop regulations for small buys, such as one or two computers, to determine if the prices are fair and reasonable. Then for larger and more complex purchases of products and services, GSA should determine fair and reasonable pricing by requiring contracting officers to get a least three bids. This is called the rule of three, which the Defense Department has been using for a few years and Congress expanded to the rest of the government starting later this year.

Branch says the panel also recommended that GSA and agencies disclosure more information about pricing.

"A lot of information about how GSA obtains fair and reasonable pricing is not necessarily disclosed to agencies," Branch says. "It is harder for the contracting officer to exercise their judgment about how aggressively they should be seeking further price reductions."

Branch continued, "On the other hand, most of information that GSA could use to effectively establish schedule prices really resides at the agencies. If they had that information they could better track as a feedback mechanism whether the prices on schedule are prices really being paid in marketplace."

Branch says the full list of recommendations will be posted on the MAS Panel Web site.

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On the Web:

FederalNewsRadio - The changing dynamics of multiple award schedules

FederalNewsRadio - GSA keeps pushing for better schedule contracts

GSA - MAS Panel

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