Discord mars MAS program

Despite all the good will between the General Services Administration and
Multiple-Award Schedule vendors in recent years, there is plenty of ill will over the
schedule’s pricing and audit clauses.

That GSA and MAS vendors—after years of debate—are once again at odds over
the requirement that vendors offer government users their best prices and that GSA has the
right to audit vendors’ books brought immediate discussion at the Federation of
Government Information Processing Council’s recent Acquisition Management Conference
in Falls Church, Va.

Although GSA and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy thought they had settled the
dispute in meetings with vendor representatives nearly two years ago, vendors continue to
balk at the clauses. This month the Government Electronics and Information Technology
Association of Arlington, Va., filed a petition with OFPP arguing that the requirements
are out of line with the FAR and procurement reform regulations [GCN, Nov. 23, Page 1].

The discussion arose when Janis Sposato, deputy assistant attorney general for law and
policy in the Justice Department’s Management Division and the department’s
procurement executive, praised the MAS program and, when asked to rate it on a scale of
one to 10, gave the program a 10.

“Schedules are the most flexible and reasonable method to get goods and services
at a competitive price quickly,” she said. “This is the best, and perhaps only,
mechanism we have to purchase state-of-the-art equipment.”

But several vendors in the audience were less charitable. They said they would rate the
program a seven primarily because of the pricing and audit clauses.

“The price reduction clause is, quite frankly, a huge burden,” said Bruce
Leinster, a program director for IBM Corp.

Although he praised GSA’s Federal Supply Service for reinvigorating the schedule
program in recent years, Leinster said that FSS should eliminate the pricing and audit
clauses and rely on competition among vendors.

“Most procurements are vigorously competed and extremely discounted,” he
said. It is in everybody’s interest to make the most up-to-date equipment available
at the best price on the schedule program, Leinster said.

Sposato, however, defended the government clauses. Although agencies watch prices, it
is helpful to know GSA is ensuring that the prices are the best, she said.

William N. Gormley, assistant commissioner of FSS for acquisition, said he often feels
as if the discussions about the pricing and audit clauses he has with vendors resemble
talks with his children. “It’s never enough,” he said.

He noted that FSS made a conscious decision not to do many post-award audits but to
focus instead on pre-award reviews.


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