Fed rules may deter locals

Concerns about federal small business procurement rules may deter state and local agencies from taking advantage of a provision that allows them to buy information technology goods and services from the Federal Supply Schedules.

The Electronic Government Act, which will be sent to President Bush for approval today, includes a cooperative purchasing provision, opening the General Services Administration's IT schedule to state and local agencies.

Being able to use existing contracts with low negotiated prices should ease state and local agencies' purchasing of IT products and services, said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who has advocated cooperative purchasing and included the provision in the e-government bill. Davis was speaking Dec. 3 at a conference sponsored by the Computing Technology Industry Association.

The provision makes the option available to state and local agencies, and they will have to decide whether they want to use the schedule as a purchasing vehicle. Some may decide not to because they would have to pass new laws or repeal old ones in order to use the schedule and comply with federal acquisition procedures.

One of those procedures that state and local agencies will have to follow when using the schedule is the federal government's small business programs, including the 8(a) and Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) programs, said Bonnie Larrabee, deputy director of the Federal Supply Service Acquisition Management Center.

That could be a deterrent, counteracting all the increased efficiencies intended by the provision, said Melissa Wojciak, Davis' staff director on the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee.

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