OMB: IT service orders must include specifics

The Office of Management and Budget is preparing to issue new regulations that will require agencies planning to buy information technology services from the General Services Administration's multiple-award schedules program to provide more detailed specifications on the type of work they will ask vendors to perform and the results they hope to achieve.

Steven Kelman director of OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy said his office has fielded repeated complaints from agencies managing Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) that federal personnel have been ordering services from schedule contracts without any description of objectives or specific tasks.

"We are hearing a number of stories about agencies using service schedules as body shops " Kelman said. "Rather than developing statements of work [describing] specific services with performance requirements some agencies are just saying they want a certain number of hours of software programming time.

"It's not healthy for an agency just to say it is buying 1 000 hours of labor without any specifications " he added.

Kelman said that a proposed amendment to the Federal Acquisition Regulation would require service-schedule vendors to submit "some sort of proposal that [would] be evaluated in a streamlined way." He said he hopes the rule will make IT service-schedule contracts to resemble GWACs.

He said the proposed rule was "still in germination " and he declined to speculate when OMB would issue it.

Doug Hanson implementation manager of NASA's Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement said he agrees with Kelman's assessment. "You don't want to give the vendor a blank check and run with it " Hanson said. "There has got to be a statement of work involved."

Another federal program manager who requested anonymity also praised Kelman's proposal as an attempt. "We need to focus on what it is agencies want to accomplish as opposed to simply buying some number of labor hours " the manager said. "This makes the schedules contracts more focused on results."

Larry Allen executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement industry association said he hoped to work on the proposal with Kelman and others in the government.

"What I would hate to see happen is a return to more regulations on the schedule process when we have been trying to get away from that " Allen said. "If you over-regulate that you could get to the point where it could make the multiple-award contracts as difficult to use as other contracts. That's not in the industry's best interest."

Kelman said OMB also will propose a revision to the language within the FAR pertaining to the schedule program that would require agencies buying hardware that surpassed the maximum ordering limitation to consider offers from more than three vendors and to achieve prices lower than those published in schedule listings. That revision is expected to be issued by GSA within a month.

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