ECS now forces electronic orders

All transactions on the Electronic Commodities Store III contract now must go through an electronic ordering system.

ECS III is a governmentwide acquisition contract (GWAC) offered by the National Institutes of Health. Victor Powers, program director at the NIH Information Technology Acquisition and Assistance Center, said the new rule is intended to improve competition on the contract.

Under the new directive, Powers said, contracting opportunities and vendor price quotes are immediately available to all companies on the contract. That takes away any one company's ability to work one-on-one with government buyers, which Powers maintains shouldn't happen under a GWAC anyway.

“The government gets the best value" under the policy, he said. "With all the scrutiny on GWACs, we wanted to be ahead of the curve."

Powers said that GWACs and schedule contracts are not the same. Schedules allow buyers to compare prices from vendors through different contract vehicles, but once an agency commits to using a GWAC for an acquisition, all of the competition is supposed to come through the vendors who hold the contract.

Companies shouldn't worry about losing sales because of the new rule, Powers said.

"If they market the same way they market now, they still should be providing the best value and best price," he said. "If they don't, the government probably shouldn’t have chosen them in the first place."

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