GSA tones down request for federal spending database

The General Services Administration has significantly changed what it wants from vendors to meet the requirements of the Federal Financial Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA).

Instead of analyzed data and assorted technical services, GSA issued a modification to a request for proposals that asks for only the contract and grants data from fiscal 2000 to 2006 for grants and through the first quarter of 2007 for contracts.

The requirements changes left industry officials bidding on the RFP dumbstruck.

“When you look at the way the solicitation has gone with GSA putting out the initial RFP and conducting oral [presentations], and then they gut the RFP, it makes you scratch your head,” said one industry executive, who requested anonymity. “The other question is what does ‘analyzed data’ mean? We don’t know how to provide the data. They are not explaining the purpose they want it for. Will they put into search tool or spreadsheet or database?”

The official also said GSA, which issued the modification Sept. 24, provided one day to ask questions and one day to respond, leaving bidders questioning the process as well. Bids are due today at 5 p.m.

“It is very interesting because the type of people who will respond to a data RFP are different than the people who would respond to an RFP for an operational site,” the official said.

GSA initially posted a sole-source notice July 25 on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site that stated the agency would get data and services from Eagle Eye Publishing. But after other vendors said they could provide the same services, the agency pulled back the notice and issued an RFP Aug. 15.

Vendors submitted proposals and made oral presentations to federal officials and expected an award Sept. 30. GSA said in the RFP that it still expects to award a contract by the end of the month.

GSA and the Office of Management and Budget have until Jan. 1, 2008, to put up a Web site for anyone to search all contracts, grants and loan data as called for under FFATA. The original RFP asked vendors to provide analyzed data in addition to Web site software and license, technical support, documentation of configuration management and technical advice.

Now, GSA wants only the data.

The modified RFP asks for “existing groomed data” on acquisitions and grants, but not loans and federal transactions. The RFP states that loans and other data would be added later.

“In the initial RFP, you got to show them a prototype of a solution and how you used data in your solution,” the official said. “Now they don’t care about the application and just want the data.”

Gary Bass, executive director of OMBWatch, said the first statement of work was baffling, and he hopes this modification is clearer.

“I know the law inside and out and I didn’t know what they were looking for,” said Bass, adding that OMBWatch is not bidding on the RFP. “I don’t think they can create something by Jan. 1, so it would seem to me that they will have to use what is out there. I wish they would just tell everyone what it is.”

Bass added that OMB said it still wants to work with OMBWatch and see how it could use the organization’s FFATA-like database, FedSpending.org.

GSA answered questions from vendors, but didn’t say why they changed the RFP. GSA did say in its answers that it didn’t want groomed software, only groomed data that will run in the government’s software.

“The removal of tasks within the statement of work was made at the government’s discretion,” GSA said in answers to vendor questions. “This acquisition is to purchase some of the existing groomed data on federal government acquisitions and grants to display on the government’s operational software.”

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