GSA rethinks financial systems schedule buys

GSA officials are floating the idea of replacing the existing FMSS program with an
indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity format.


In a recent memo to members of the Chief Financial Officers Council's Joint Systems
Solutions Team (JSST), GSA officials said the IDIQ contracting approach appears to be the
best way to streamline financial software buying procedures and respond to JSST's concerns
about providing agencies with reliable software products.


The proposed IDIQ contracts would take effect in fiscal 1999 and run for five years.
Schedule vendors would vie for task orders. GSA would cap the number of contracts and
prescribe maximum order limits but hold an annual open season to add new suppliers as
warranted.


GSA officials said they had no additional details about the proposal. But they are
discussing the idea with other agencies and expect to issue a solicitation next spring.


Meanwhile, industry groups said they are not averse to competing under an IDIQ scheme.


"Our members are used to that kind of approach. It's more like the commercial
market where you get a hunting license with terms and conditions to go hunt for
business," said Larry Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government
Procurement in Washington. "The downside is that there is no guarantee of business
volume. But that's where contractors have to market."


Improving the government's financial systems seems to be an unending task. Since
President Reagan launched his Reform '88 initiative, the administration has repeatedly
ordered agencies to upgrade antiquated systems, build standard interfaces and eliminate
duplicative financial operations.


GSA set up FMSS as the government's mandatory source for commercial financial software.
The schedule was supposed to help impose financial system standards by forcing agencies to
buy from a preapproved pool of vendors.


But last year JSST issued a report targeting the flaws in the certification tests that
vendors must undergo to earn a spot on the FMSS roster. Agencies often require vendors to
perform an extra set of capability tests before buying from them and test results are not
readily available for users' inspection, JSST said.


More information about JSST's report and related financial management issues is
available at the CFO Council's World Wide Web home page at http://www.financenet.gov/cfo.htm.


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