GSA's MAS program: Look before you leap

It seems that lately everyone in the information technology community is looking to secure a General Services Administration multipleaward schedule contract. Like a small tidal wave, the rolls of the MAS program have swelled to include 1,435 IT vendors up 534 from just last year. According to GS

It seems that lately everyone in the information technology community is looking to secure a General Services Administration multiple-award schedule contract. Like a small tidal wave, the rolls of the MAS program have swelled to include 1,435 IT vendors— up 534 from just last year. According to GSA, this number could increase by another 200 before the end of the fiscal year.

This rise in the tide of schedule contracting is due, at least in part, to an aggressive marketing campaign by GSA. It also is due to pressure exerted upon potential schedule vendors by GSA's customers— namely, the user agencies. It is not uncommon for federal agencies to push an IT vendor to get "on schedule." In addition, the burden of obtaining a schedule contract has been reduced by the existence of a number of consultants who, for a fee, will guide an offeror through the GSA proposal process.

But potential schedule vendors should be warned: Participation in the MAS program is not for everyone. A vendor's ability to draft and submit an acceptable proposal is only one factor to be considered in assessing the pros and cons of participation.

The ability— and determination— to adhere to the requirements of the MAS program are far more important factors. In a sense, pursuing and obtaining a schedule contract is a little like jumping off a cliff into the sea. Hitting the water is the easy part; the real problems arise after that.

The new IT solicitation issued by GSA March 23 illustrates this warning well. Notwithstanding GSA's purported attempt to craft an easy-to-understand document that incorporates only commercial terms and conditions, the solicitation maintains or incorporates several noncommercial requirements that could easily snare an unwary vendor.

Perhaps the best example of this is the Price Reduction Clause, which was incorporated into the new IT solicitation pursuant to GSA regulation. The Price Reduction Clause generally is thought to compel a vendor to treat its schedule customers as its most favored customers. This description, however, oversimplifies what the clause requires. Unlike a typical commercial Most Favored Customer clause, the GSA Price Reduction Clause obligates a vendor that increases the discount it grants to a nonschedule customer during contract performance to grant a proportionally increased discount to its schedule customers— regardless of whether the new discount granted to its nonschedule customer is still less than the discount it grants its schedule customers.

Thus, a schedule vendor that is looking to "sweeten the pot" for a potential new customer will not be able to do so unless it is willing to provide extra sweetener to all its schedule customers as well. While the actual operation of the Price Reduction Clause is far more complex than this brief discussion suggests, one can see how the existence of the clause can hinder a vendor's ability to deal flexibly with its nonschedule customers.

Sales flexibility, however, is not the only victim of the Price Reduction Clause. Recordkeeping flexibility is another. The new GSA solicitation, like the old, mandates that a vendor maintain records relating to the Price Reduction Clause for at least three years after final payment under the contract. Because the government looks to nonschedule sales as well as schedule sales to determine whether a vendor has violated the Price Reduction Clause, the sea of paperwork can be huge.

While any business must maintain effective recordkeeping procedures, such procedures in the context of the MAS program are especially important because a vendor that accepts a schedule contract opens its doors to no less than five types of government audits. One of these audit rights affords GSA access to a vendor's "books, documents, papers and records" related to Price Reduction Clause compliance. Another affords the General Accounting Office access to records involving "transactions related to" the schedule contract. Both are broad grants of authority, to say the least.

The Price Reduction Clause, the solicitation's strict recordkeeping requirements and the government's extensive audit rights are just three of the rocks hiding under the surface of the new IT solicitation. A vendor seeking to participate in the MAS program must be willing to accept these conditions as well as the existence of stiff penalties for noncompliance. Failure to abide by the terms and conditions of a schedule contract can result in, among other things, contract termination, civil and criminal prosecution, and/or suspension and debarment from federal— and sometimes state and local— government contracting.

Unfortunately, many schedule vendors question the wisdom of participating in the MAS program only after finding themselves the subject of a federal inspector general audit. This is like questioning in midfall the wisdom of jumping off a cliff— too little, too late.

While participation in the MAS program offers potentially great rewards for many IT vendors, it also harbors great risks for the unwary. The water may look great from above, but any diver would be well-served to examine the rocks under the surface before jumping head-first.

-- Aronie is a member of the government contracts group of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, Washington, D.C. He wishes to acknowledge the contributions of John Chierichella to this article.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.