GSA details auction plan
- By Colleen O'Hara
- Mar 26, 2000
Online auctions and so-called reverse auctions that allow multiple users
to aggregate buys to get lower prices are all the rage in the private sector.
The General Services Administration plans to test the online auction waters
beginning next month, but it will have to convince vendors and users that
it's a good move for government.
GSA detailed to vendors this month its plans to create its buyers.gov
site, which GSA hopes will make it easier for government
agencies to buy information technology products. The site initially will
offer three approaches to selling computer hardware and software to agencies:
* A private buyer auction in which an agency would post a solicitation
for IT commodities and vendors would respond with quotes.
* A reverse auction, known as eFast volume purchasing, that would allow
multiple agencies interested in buying the same product to pool their orders
into a single large buy to drive down the price.
* QuickQuotes, which offers the services of an electronic store to buyers
who want to shop for a specific IT commodity.
GSA plans to use the existing services of a few vendors, including ACS
Government Solutions Group Inc., which recently teamed with SupplierMarket.com
and VolumeBuy Inc. to develop a reverse auction site for government users.
Mercata Inc. and FreeMarkets Inc. also offer similar services.
Vendors that participate in the eFast reverse auction most likely will
have a GSA schedule or existing government contract, said Manny DeVera,
director of GSA's Federal Technology Service IT Solutions Regional Services
Center. But vendors that participate in the private auction do not have
to have a government contract, he said. "We hope now is the right time
to leverage the government's buying power to get good pricing and to allow
resellers to gain efficiencies in their cost of marketing," DeVera said.
The approach should also benefit GSA, which spends a lot of time buying
commodities that involve expensive, labor-intensive transactions, DeVera
said. The buyers.gov site would simplify and automate the process, he said.
"We feel the biggest challenge is encouraging buyers to feel comfortable
with this," DeVera said.
Others seem to agree. "The concern is that [agencies] may end up with
substandard goods from companies they know little about. I think it will
be in the end a very limited utility as an acquisition method," said Larry
Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement.
Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc., Chantilly,
Va., said users might get better prices and faster service from an existing
blanket purchase agreement or an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity
contract particularly if an agency knows exactly what it wants.