GSA builds online sked search tool

Federal buyers now have a single point of contact for the most uptodate information on the more than 5,000 commercial vendors offering products and services through the General Services Administration schedule. This month GSA unveiled the Schedules ELibrary, a complete listing of schedule contra

Federal buyers now have a single point of contact for the most up-to-date information on the more than 5,000 commercial vendors offering products and services through the General Services Administration schedule.

This month GSA unveiled the Schedules E-Library, a complete listing of schedule contracts and contact information available as a link from the Federal Supply Service's schedules page at pub.fss.gsa.gov/sched.

The World Wide Web site is divided into three parts: a search engine, basic schedule ordering guidelines and a list of the FSS schedules with an alphabetical list of the contractors on each schedule. The search engine serves as the main component of the E-Library, allowing users to find product information by keyword, contract number, contractor name, special item number (SIN) or schedule number.

GSA updates the information daily from FSS acquisition centers around the country. "We are pulling the acquisition center data out of our legacy systems, the old databases and a new system with the SIN descriptions," said Genie Pack, director of the operations support division at the FSS Acquisition Operations and Electronic Commerce Center.

Users can make searches as general or specific as needed, bringing up links to all the matching schedules, SINs and contractors that match the search criteria.

Further narrowing eventually will bring up a contractor's information page, which includes all the schedules it holds, the contract numbers, the expiration date of each contract, and the SINs it holds and whether the products are available on the agency's online shopping site, GSA Advantage! Users also will find phone numbers, e-mail addresses and direct links to companies from the e-mail address and the Web site listed.

But GSA said up-to-date information on contractors will not always be available. Plenty of information is missing from the outset, including Web and e-mail addresses, because the information provided by the acquisition centers may be incomplete or out-of-date, Pack said. "If any of our contractors do see information that is incorrect, they should contact their procurement contracting officer," she said.

The push to update the information daily puts pressure on contracting officers to provide information on changes in a timely fashion. "Now that the data is so visible, FSS personnel are going to have to place more concern on spelling and updating contract information as soon as they receive it," Pack said.

Although contractors are supposed to notify GSA of changes in contract information, information for many companies is not updated until contracts come up for renewal. Therefore the database may not reflect recent changes, such as name changes for some merged or acquired companies including Litton/PRC Inc. and Dunn/IDP Computer Corp.

Other potential search pitfalls reflect conscious choices on the part of GSA. Acronyms are not always used, so information technology does not appear as "IT," and companies will not turn up in a search using their commonly used abbreviation. For example, Government Technology Services Inc. will not turn up in any search for "GTSI."

GSA recognizes the problem but does not plan to make it a priority to add commonly used acronyms to the search fields. "Possibly we will down the line, but right now our concern is the accuracy of all the data," Pack said.

In the immediate future GSA will include more information on companies' socioeconomic status. "I know DOD especially is interested in having this data available prior to their personnel making an award," she said.

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