GSA: Auctions going, going strong

Despite its success with reverse auctions, the General Services Administration still has challenges to overcome to perfect the system, GSA insiders said Wednesday at the Coalition for Government Procurement's fall conference.

The demand for faster procurement cycles, lower prices and connecting the best suppliers with government buyers led GSA to explore new procurement methods — including reverse auctions, in which suppliers bid down the price of goods that the government wants to buy.

Through its Buyers.gov Web site, GSA's Federal Technology Service has conducted two successful reverse auctions, said Manny DeVera, assistant commissioner at the General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service.

But, DeVera added, GSA is working to address future goals, such as making sure that small businesses are equally represented in the system. GSA also wants to conduct value-driven auctions, as opposed to simply price-based ones, he said.

"We want to be a center of expertise for aggregation and reverse auctions, but we're going to make some mistakes," DeVera said. "We hope to run at least several hundred million dollars in the next year or so."

DeVera also said that the Coast Guard will conduct a reverse auction this month using the GSA system.

In other GSA auction news, Ed O'Hare, the chief information officer for the GSA's Federal Supply Service, said the agency's GSAauctions.gov Web site would conduct its first Internet sale in January.

The site, which auctions the government's surplus personal property to the public, is ready to go. The first sale would have been made this month, but a regulatory issue hung up the proceedings.

"Our customer realm is the public, so a privacy notice had to be posted in the Federal Register," O'Hare said.

O'Hare also said that delays associated with GSA Advantage E-buys, which will feature a request for quote system that will be seamless for current Advantage users, came from the commercial product the GSA selected.

"Functionally it was great, but the idea was for it to be seamless for Advantage users, and the "seamlessly' is where it wasn't good enough," O'Hare said, adding that the site will be up and running "this winter."

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