OFPP plans governmentwide e-Yellow Pages

In an effort to help government buyers find the most suitable products and services available on government contracts, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy is considering building an electronic governmentwide Yellow Pages.

The online listing would detail what contracts are available and how they work, according to Deidre Lee, administrator of OFPP and acting deputy director of management at the Office of Management and Budget. "People need to know what's out there and how it functions [to] make a decision about whether it's a good way to meet requirements," she said.

Initially, the Yellow Pages would cover products and services found on multiple-award and governmentwide acquisition contracts, but in the future it may be expanded to include the Federal Supply Schedule and other vehicles, Lee said. The listing most likely would be searchable according to what product or service a user is looking for rather than according to a specific contract, she said.

The goal of the project is to provide a service to buyers, Lee said, "so they can do the best buying they can. The only way they can do the best buying they can is to have good information."

While agency users are the main audience for the Yellow Pages, the listing also could benefit contractors who sell to the government. Vendors could see what products and services competitors are offering and under what terms and conditions, Lee said. It also could provide small businesses with an entry to contracting opportunities.

The concept for the Yellow Pages should be firmed up by the end of the year, but Lee could not say when an operational system would be in place.

Ken Stepka, a procurement analyst at NASA, said a central listing such as the Yellow Pages would help identify contracts of which government buyers are not aware. "The intent of the Yellow Pages is not so much to centralize services but to identify contracts and what they are for," he said. "It may mean we use resources better and wouldn't have as many redundant contracts."

Some of the feedback the Transportation Department receives from vendors is that buyers outside the Washington, D.C., Beltway do not have as much information on contracts as buyers inside the Beltway, said Dell Berry, manager of the Information Technology Omnibus Procurement special project office. "We're providing IT services, so we're not [selling] commodities like the [General Services Administration] schedule," he said. "For us it would be the information dissemination that would be useful."

Mike Sade, program manager for the Commerce Department's Commerce Information Technology Solutions (Commits) program, a new governmentwide contract set aside for small businesses, said the Yellow Pages also would benefit GWAC holders.

"The benefit is obviously greater distribution and greater access to the entire marketplace," he said. "Today people really know about us by word-of-mouth."

Sade said he would like to see the listing include contract details such as rate structures, points of contact and information on minimum and maximum ordering limits.

The Yellow Pages should help buyers find the best prices and products that meet their needs, said Chip Mather, senior vice president at Chantilly, Va.-based Acquisition Solutions Inc. "I always felt that information is power. If you can go to one place to find out what contracts are [available]...you can do more comparison shopping," he said.

Vendors, meanwhile, may respond by lowering their prices. "There is informal competition that goes on just by putting contractors side by side," Mather said.

Anything that would help get a company recognition would be helpful, said Lou Ray, president of Matcom Corp., which is on the Commits contract. "For a small business dealing with the federal government our worst problem is getting known at all," Ray said.

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