GSA mulls charging a fee to access some FedBizOpps features

The General Services Administration is considering charging vendors a fee to use the advanced features of the FedBizOpps Web portal, the governmentwide repository of contract opportunities worth more than $25,000.

While searching the site for solicitations would remain free, GSA is mulling the idea of asking contractors to pay about $30 a year each to receive e-mail notifications of contracting opportunities in a vendor’s industry code or from specific contracting offices.

David Drabkin, GSA’s procurement executive, said this proposal is in the early stages of discussion, but the government is struggling to figure out how to pay for further enhancements and technologies for the contracting portal.

“The number of transactions currently being done by FedBizOpps is significantly larger than what was done under the Commerce Business Daily Net,” Drabkin said. “The fee to vendors is something many private companies already do, and it may be a way to raise some of the funds to pay for the changes to the site.”

Vendors now receive e-mail notifications for free. Drabkin said the service saves time and money, and he doesn’t think companies would balk at a nominal fee.

If the Office of Management and Budget and the Procurement Executive Council approve his fee plan, Drabkin said, GSA likely would next seek public comments.

The proposal is part of GSA’s search for ways to fund the portal. The agency spent $4.7 million this year for the development and operation of FedBizOpps. Drabkin said agencies are supposed to kick in about $487,500, but GSA has collected less than half of that so far. The rest of the money for the portal came from Federal Supply Service revenues, he said.

Leading the charge

GSA also is considering whether to charge agencies $5 per transaction, bill them monthly for use or ask for an annual flat fee, Drabkin said.

“This is somewhat complicated, but it will be resolved,” he said. “I’m not sure if it will be resolved as part of the fiscal 2004 budget process.”

Drabkin would like to solve these issues soon because his team has finished a draft upgrade plan for FedBizOpps.

The plan outlines two major changes to the portal.

The first would let vendors submit proposals through the site or offer them a single place to find agencies’ tools for accepting proposals online.

Currently, six agencies let vendors submit proposals online.

GSA also is considering setting up a central searchable database of potential subcontracting opportunities. Contractors now must read requests for proposals one by one to see if they have subcontracting requirements.

The third version of FedBizOpps also might incorporate the North American Industry Classification System codes. The system now uses only classification codes that give general product or service groupings.

“At this point, we are evaluating whether to pay extra money for Revision 3, and if so, how we will pay for it,” Drabkin said.

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