Cooperative purchasing proposals posted

GSA proposed rules in Federal Register

The General Services Administration has published the long-awaited proposed rules that would let state and local governments purchase information technology using GSA schedules. The notice appeared in the Federal Register today.

The provision would be limited to Schedule 70 purchases and would be an option, not mandatory, for states to use. A public hearing is set for Feb. 4 at GSA headquarters, and the deadline for public comments is March 24.

Rick Grimm, chief executive officer of the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing, said the ability to buy through GSA would make state procurement efforts more efficient. If the federal government has already put vendors through competition on the contract, states don't have to repeat the process, he said.

"The spirit of the competitive process has been accomplished," he said. "Having states reinvent the wheel if the federal government has already done so is maybe not the best use of state government time."

However, many states may not be able to take advantage of the option until their legislatures change their procurement processes.

"Each state has its own procurement rules," said Larry Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement. "Being able to buy off the schedules program means buying off the schedules program as any federal agency would. I don't know how many states will want to."

Individual states expressed varying levels of interest. Colorado can't use the GSA schedule without changing state procurement laws, said Kay Kishline, state purchasing director. And states such as Illinois and Texas are happy with the systems they have in place, said officials in each.

"I think we'd stick with the system we've got right now," said Ted Maddry, program manager at the Texas Building and Procurement Commission. "The program we've got now seems to be working the way it should."

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