Procurement collection system launched

At 8 a.m. on Oct. 1, the world of federal procurement changed.

A General Services Administration-led team launched the Federal Procurement Data System repository, on time and on budget. Agencies wasted little time putting the portal to use, said David Drabkin, GSA deputy associate administrator for acquisition policy.

“Within the first 15 minutes, agencies were using it,” Drabkin said. “This is a major systems replacement that is doing exactly what we asked for. Now procurement data will be entered and available in almost real time.”

In April, GSA awarded a five-year, $24.3 million contract to Global Computer Enterprises Inc. of Gaithersburg, Md., to replace an antiquated procurement data collection system. (Click for May 26 GCN story).

The system will accept agency data three ways: machine-to-machine transfer, manually through a Web interface and via batch processing. GSA itself is using all three methods because of contracting offices’ differing capabilities.

“In the past, agencies were required to submit data quarterly, but the data was three to six months behind,” Drabkin said. “Last fiscal year, we didn’t collect all the procurement data until May, nearly seven months into the fiscal year. With the new system, 2004 data will be in the system by the end of the first quarter of 2005 or sooner.”

The portal will let any user find accurate and timely information as well as more about agency contracting habits than before, Drabkin said.

GSA is requiring agencies to submit all data for fiscal 2004, which began Wednesday, through the new system. The old one will be shut down after agencies finalize their fiscal 2003 information. Drabkin said GSA will make all the historical procurement data available through the new system.

The biggest transition challenge will be for large departments such as the Defense Department with numerous records and contracting offices. Drabkin said DOD made the majority of the 34 million contracting actions in 2002.

GSA is developing policy guidance requiring agencies to submit information for all procurements of more than $2,500 in fiscal 2005. Currently they must submit data only for contracts worth more than $25,000, and optionally for contracts worth between $2,500 and $25,000 for fiscal 2004.

“This was a decision made by the procurement executives three years ago,” Drabkin said. “Some agencies said they are having difficulties because they do so little contracting that it’s hard to get people trained and to get access to the system.”

Drabkin said the new system is not perfect and probably will have some bugs to work out, but it is doing what it is supposed to do.

“This was truly an intergovernmental project,” he said. “We had participation from every department in the requirements and decision processes.”

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