Changes may boost buying exchanges

The Bush administration could pave the way for wider adoption of buying exchanges within government by consolidating some contractor reporting requirements, according to the Defense Department's procurement policy chief.

"The exchange issue is that if the [vendors] don't have an existing [federal] contract, they have to report that information for every transaction," as opposed to having the data stored in their back-end systems for a one-time report to the government, said Deidre Lee, the Defense procurement director. Lee spoke at the E-Gov Electronic Procurement conference in Northern Virginia on Jan. 31.

A buying exchange uses Web-based systems to connect multiple, pre-qualified sellers with multiple buyers.

Vendors that hold existing government contracts, such as General Services Administration schedule contracts, have reported required data up front. This data includes information such as the vendor's certifications, small business status and their hiring of veterans.

"We still have some important data to collect," such as the percentage of an agency's purchases that go to small and disadvantaged businesses, Lee said. "We need to streamline it and make it less onerous" on the vendors to collect and report.

In addition to procurement regulation, agencies' hesitancy to work together has delayed the government in awarding buying exchange contracts, even though agencies may buy some of the same products and services.

Lee said she doesn't have the Bush administration's policy on streamlining reporting requirements, she said that small businesses are important to President Bush.

"The focus will be how to make it easier for them to participate" in electronic-government contracting, while still permitting the government to collect the procurement data it needs, she said. Despite the uncertainty, Lee described her outlook as "very optimistic" that the government could accomplish both goals.

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