Oversight

Why GSA buys tech from NASA SEWP

GSA Headquarters (Photo by Rena Schild/Shutterstock) 

The General Services Administration is the government's acquisition hub, with an estimated $31 billion spent annually through its multiple award schedules covering more than 10 million commercial supplies and services.

But sometimes, even GSA has to look elsewhere to find what it needs, and that includes buying from NASA's governmentwide acquisition vehicle Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement.

GSA's Office of Inspector General notes in a new report that GSA may not be getting the best deal for its customers when it fills spot orders via NASA's tech contract.

SEWP, like other government wide acquisition contracts, including GSA's vehicles, charges a fee for transactions. The IG said GSA used SEWP to buy $123 million of IT equipment between fiscal 2016 and 2017. The resulting fee to SEWP was about $480,000.

GSA, said the IG, used SEWP for spot purchases when its customer agencies required items that weren't available through its own multiple award schedules or couldn't be turned around in a customer's tight timeline.

The IG had no issue with the practice, and said it meets all regulatory requirements, however, it said the agency's management should note that one third of its orders through SEWP had only one bidder. That limited competition, it said, could result in customers not getting the best price.

"Of our sample of 15 orders totaling $79.7 million, five orders were awarded based on one quote, and three were awarded based on two quotes. Collectively, these orders accounted for 65 percent of the dollars in our sample," it said.

SEWP officials told the IG that the contract emphasizes competition at the order level, and not at the contract level as GSA does which emphasizes multiple quotes. SEWP told the IG that the internal competition incentivizes its contractors to provide the best price.

That disparity in approaches, said the IG, combined with limited competition can put GSA orders through SEWP at risk of paying too much if the order doesn't generate many offers.

In reply comments, Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Alan B. Thomas Jr. said that GSA was exceeding its 2019 goals for competition. "GSA understands the importance of competition and the role it plays in obtaining the best value for the taxpayer," Thomas said.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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