GSA schedules opening soon

SAVANNAH, Ga. — State and local governments will be able to start buying information technology products and services from federal schedule contracts beginning May 8, the commissioner of the General Services Administration's Federal Supply Service said today.

FSS Commissioner Donna Bennett said an interim rule would be published in the Federal Register giving the green light to state and local governments to participate in the practice known as cooperative purchasing.

Although it will take a short time for state and local governments to actually be able to buy products and services from GSA's schedules, Bennett said they will be able to start the process May 8.

State and local agencies would have a better chance of finding "fair and reasonable pricing" on the schedule contracts, Bennett told a gathering of government officials and contractors attending the semiannual CIO Summit, sponsored by FCW Media Group.

In the E-Government Act of 2002, Congress passed legislation giving state and local governments the chance to use federal contracting schedules to acquire IT services and products. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) pushed the idea to overhaul procurement policies and give other governments a chance to find the biggest bang for their buck.

But whether state and local governments will go along with the idea remains a question. Bennett said GSA had no predictions for how much business state and local governments would bring to the federal marketplace.

Like many state and local officials, Robert Taylor, the chief information officer for Fulton County, Ga., said he was skeptical — "in part because we want to focus on our local businesses," but he also wondered, "How good are their prices?"

Nevertheless, Don Upson, Virginia's former technology chief, said it's a great deal for state and local governments. "There are more contract vehicles than ever before," said Upson, who now is a founding member of consulting firm ICG Government.

Bennett said GSA would start with offering IT services to state and local governments. "If it turns out to be successful, we'll expand it."

She also said state and local governments will be able to add their own terms and conditions onto federal contracts as long as they do not conflict with terms that federal contractors already have.

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