Archives agency chooses a system to get up to speed on procurement

Archives agency chooses a system to get up to speed on procurement

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

The National Archives and Records Administration has chosen an electronic procurement system in the post-Brooks Act era, when federal agencies are looking to expedite solicitations and contracts.

NARA will install Virtual Procurement Office 3.23 from Compusearch Software Systems of McLean, Va., for its acquisitions and electronic commerce, said Rhonda Propst, NARA contract specialist in the Acquisition Services Division.

In triplicate

'We wanted to acquire an automated acquisition system program to keep our customers abreast of information and track the acquisitions within our office as well,' Propst said.

The three-part procurement software gives vendors and customers a comprehensive way to solicit merchandise and track transactions without making a paper trail, Propst said.

The Purchase Request Information System (PRISM) and Federal Acquisitions Regulation Automated (FARA) applications, the first two parts of VPO, let the agency speed solicitations. NARA will use a Novell NetWare LAN with TCP/IP rather than a PRISM Web option, which would transfer the procurement system to the Internet, said Brock Lending, Compusearch chief technology officer.

PRISM is a complete procurement package, not just a purchasing application, Compusearch officials said. It runs under Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 on a 350-MHz Pentium II server with 1G of RAM.

Procurement records reside in Oracle8 databases. The system can adapt to specific needs without reprogramming by switching to and from databases and fields, Lending said. NARA users can access PRISM through a mix of PCs running Windows 95 and NT.

Multiple interfaces

PRISM has interfaces for requisitions, accounting and budget information. It creates original requisitions, adds amendments and notes introduced during the solicitation, and keeps detailed records of such correspondence, Lending said.

PRISM allows multiple delivery locations and accounting codes per requisition. The system will let NARA redefine routing lists, maintain a full audit trail, conduct bid analysis through reviews of vendor performance and automated bid evaluations of candidates, and calculate owed dollars.

VPO also includes the FARA NT document assembly application.

FARA will allow National Archives acquisitions staff members to search the Federal Acquisition Regulation and 70 supplemental databases of federal documents to create agency-specific solicitations, contracts and grants.

The system lets users cut, paste, save and print clauses or entire documents.

EC Web, a sister company of Compusearch, completes the purchase cycle of government procurement by delivering information from vendors to NARA and vice versa, said Chris Treptow, EC Web chief technology officer. FARA provides document assembly, PRISM provides the management and EC Web streamlines the vendor part of the puzzle, Treptow said.

VPO developers created proprietary software, which pulls raw data from EC Web and places it on the server on which PRISM resides.

PRISM users can then retrieve the data as well, Compusearch officials said.

On display

EC Web displays contracting needs provided by government agencies, and vendors can view them and place bids immediately.

EC Web also sends e-mail messages and gives vendors and government agencies access to the solicitation information 24 hours a day.

The information is accessible only with a password; competing candidates cannot view bids during solicitation.

Vendors not awarded the contract can find out the winner's bid after the award to understand how they might improve future bids.

The ease of access and prompt electronic delivery reduce the solicitation cycle time, Treptow said. Entire procurements have been completed in as little as 45 minutes, he said.

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