Guidance coming on FSS services

Two years after information technology services became available to agencies

on the General Services Administration's Federal Supply Service schedule

contracts, GSA is moving to provide regulatory guidance on how to buy those

services.

Overall sales on the FSS schedule have grown in the past four years

as agencies have taken advantage of the easy buying process the schedule

allows. Government information technology services purchased from the FSS

schedule have increased from $1.2 billion in fiscal 1998 — when they were

added — to $4.4 billion in fiscal 2000.

But now the General Accounting Office is urging GSA and the Office of

Federal Procurement Policy to develop buying guidance for IT services to

match the guidance in place for IT products.

"The Federal Acquisition Regulation does not indicate that special procedures

should be used to order certain types of services, and does not describe

those procedures and when they should be used," wrote David Cooper, GAO

director of acquisition and sourcing management in a November report.

Through the FAR Council, GSA and OFPP have developed a draft rule that

would revise the regulation to include the ordering procedures for services.

Following the GAO report, the agencies are pushing to make the draft rule

become final as soon as possible, according to a letter from Kenneth Oscar,

acting deputy administrator of OFPP.

The GAO report followed a review of four Defense Department contracting

offices that revealed an overall lack of understanding of how to procure

IT services via the FSS schedule. GAO's review of 22 IT services buys from

DOD — totaling more than $112 million — found that in 17 cases contracting

officers did not follow GSA and FAR procedures.

The call for guidance has been a long time coming, said Chip Mather, senior

vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc., a federal contracting consulting

firm.

GSA and OFPP have offered some guidance since 1998 to cover services

buys, but in many cases the advice is inconsistent, and there is still nothing

in the FAR that specifically applies to services, Mather said. The fact

that GAO determined that most DOD contracting officers "got it wrong...

should be a wake-up call that there needs to be some guidance and it needs

to be in the FAR," he said.

GSA also will step up its outreach programs to educate contracting officers

and program managers about the requirements for managing service orders

on the schedules, Carolyn Alston, FSS' deputy assistant commissioner for

acquisition, wrote in a response to the report.

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