Senate kills co-op buying

The Senate last week passed legislation that prohibits state and local governments from purchasing products and services from the General Services Administration's multiple-award schedules program.

A brief provision tucked away in the Senate's supplemental appropriations bill would repeal Section 1555 of the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act which specifically allowed cooperative purchasing. Although GSA officials have strongly supported that section of FASA their attempts to start it have met with repeated resistance from members of Congress acting on behalf of industry groups.

"It doesn't surprise me " said Frank Pugliese commissioner of GSA's Federal Supply Service. "I've been in this town for 20 years and every time we get close to cooperative purchasing these folks come out of the woodwork."

Sources said the latest round of opposition was generated by officials from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who convinced Sen. Christopher "Kit" S. Bond (R- Mo.) chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee that cooperative purchasing would harm the interests of small businesses. The group also sent a letter last week to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee charging that GSA would use cooperative purchasing for no other reason than to increase its income through surcharges tacked on to MAS purchases. GSA receives 1 percent on every schedule buy.

"This provision essentially enables GSA to unfairly compete with the private sector and to supplement their budget at businesses' expense " said R. Bruce Josten senior vice president of the Chamber's membership policy group.

Last year GSA's attempts to put cooperative purchasing in place were halted when former Rep. Bill Zeliff (R-N.H.) sponsored legislation that imposed a moratorium on the initiative until August 1997.

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