Reverse auctions move forward

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy and other agencies have thrown

their weight behind the use of online reverse auctions to purchase goods

and services in government.

"I think it's wonderful you're trying [reverse auctions]," said Ken

Oscar, acting director of OFPP at a conference on Wednesday sponsored by

the General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service. Reverse

auctions, which allow sellers to bid down the price of a product or service,

provide agencies with another "tool" in their purchasing toolbox, Oscar

said.

Vendors who have participated in a reverse auction "think that it's

good" and "fair," Oscar said, adding that even the losing vendors felt the

process was inclusive.

Meanwhile, OFPP plans to issue guidance to "sharpen up" the Federal

Acquisition Regulation regarding reverse auctions, such as clarifying the

time and date for when a bid is due, Oscar said.

The Navy, Army and U.S. Postal Service are among the agencies that have

already tried online reverse auctions, and the Air Force plans to conduct

its first this week. The Navy conducted its first online reverse auction

May 5 and found it was a useful "price-leverage tool," said Rear Adm. Bill

Jenkins Jr., deputy for acquisition business management at the Navy.

FTS organized Wednesday's event to garner support for its own auction

plans, which include a six-month pilot with nine vendors to test the reverse

auction concept. Manny DeVera, director of GSA's FTS IT Solutions Regional

Services Center, said he is close to signing agencies for the pilot.

Sandra Bates, FTS commissioner, said that although reverse auctions

may not be for everybody, they do have a place. Agencies should "dare to

be great," she said. "I think we owe it to our customers to think outside

the box."

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