GSA awards $0 contract for spending database data

The General Services Administration will not be paying for the contracting and grant data that will be in the federal spending database.

GSA earlier this week awarded Global Computing Enterprises (GCE) a contract worth $0 for the data to help meet the requirements under the Federal Financial Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA).

Congress gave the Office of Management and Budget a Jan. 1 deadline to launch a publicly searchable database with all grant, contract and loan transactions. This contract is the first step toward creating the database.

GCE beat out three other vendors with its $0 bid. GCE officials have said in the past that the information is publicly available and the government shouldn’t pay for its own data. Late last month the company launched its own version of the FFATA database at FFATA.org.

"GSA has completed the procurement activities supporting the data services for the implementation of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act and all bidders have been notified of the award,” said a GSA official, who requested anonymity because not all the unsuccessful bidders had been debriefed. “In the best interest of the taxpayer, GSA awarded the contract for data services based on best overall value, which happened to be lowest bidder in this case.”

GCE officials would not comment, except to confirm the award by referring to GSA’s announcement on FFATA.org, which receives all its data from agencies.

The company also has the contract to run the Federal Procurement Data System, and some industry executives believe that gave GCE an unfair advantage.

“I don’t think GSA did anything underhanded; I just think it is cash-strapped and GCE knew that and made an offer they couldn’t refuse,” said Ashok Mehan, founder of Fedmine, one of three unsuccessful bidders. “GCE did them a favor. I’m not happy about losing, but not a sore loser.”

Mehan added that he wasn’t sure how $0 could be in the competitive range if every other bidder submitted costs of more than $0.

He and other vendors said they were unhappy with how GSA conducted the procurement. After initially saying it would sole source the award to Eagle Eye Publishing, vendors protested, and GSA issued a request for proposals. Then GSA reduced its requirements, asking only for the data instead of services, also, and gave vendors one day to respond.

Mehan said the process was frustrating.

“Maybe GSA should have just stuck with GCE from the beginning,” he said.

GCE has three days after the award to provide the data to GSA and then will deliver 2007 and 2008 data monthly when available.

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