Federal Supply Schedules: VA=GSA????

Earlier this year the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the report, “VA Acquisition Management: Steps Needed to Ensure Healthcare Federal Supply Schedules Remain Useful (GAO-20-132).” (Federal News Network, February 21, 2020)

The report dives into the non-pharmaceutical Federal Supply Schedules and lays out 11 recommendations, nine to the Department of Veterans Affairs and two to the General Services Administration (GSA). The report also outlines how the VA and GSA should address their contracting operations supporting veterans healthcare. (ibid)

For some background, the Veterans Administration manages nine healthcare-related Federal Supply Schedules (VA FSS) that provide medical devices as well as services. Included in the VA FSS are medical-surgical equipment, pharmaceuticals, patient mobility devices, laboratory testing, and analysis services. The VA FSS accounts for about $15.4 billion in annual purchases, the pharmaceutical schedule making up $12.6 billion, with the additional eight schedules coming in at about $2.8 billion. For the last four years, sales under the eight non-pharmaceutical schedules have been somewhat flat. (ibid)

It turns out that the VA and GSA have a few areas where they are lacking a “team” mentality. The GAO also finds there is limited guidance and training of the VA contracting staff and it seems the VA FSS and the VA’s Medical-Surgical Prime Vendor program are duplicating efforts. This means longer processing times for contract awards, contract mods and higher admin costs for the VA and industry as a whole. (ibid)

GAO recommends the following:

  1. The VA provide comprehensive FSS guidance and training to the FSS contracting staff
  2. The VA and GSA improve collaboration, including the potential use of GSA’s procurement tools to support the VA FSS
  3. The VA evaluate timeliness goals and barriers to achieving them in the contracting process
  4. The VA assess FSS and MSPV-NB duplication to resource utilization and leverage its buying power (ibid)

The Coalition’s “VA Multiple Award Schedule White Paper” gives recommendations to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the VA FSS. The recommendations are:

  • Recognize commercial practices when possible
  • Consistency with GSA/FSS policy
  • Streamline the evaluation processes
  • Reduce contracting costs for the government as well as industry (ibid)

The white paper goes on to make specific recommendations to align the VA’s price negotiations strategy with GSA’s approach. Additionally, the white paper touches on the use of GSA’s e-Offer and e0Mod systems to streamline the procurement process. As it turns out, the VA and GSA have very different approaches to contract audit support for their FSS programs. The white paper recommends the two align with GSA’s approach. (ibid)

Will there be more opportunities to work with the VA once their processes are synced up to GSAs? Give us a call.

Phase 2: Resistance is Futile

Although we covered this last month, it’s worth another review  as GSA moves to phase two of the MAS consolidation.

As you know, GSA is merging the Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program contracts from 24 different schedules into one. Notices of changes to terms and conditions for current contract holders under the MAS program should be received by contract holders in the coming months.

The consolidated schedule makes it simpler for the government to make purchases and will roll out in three parts:

  1. Creation of a new contract vehicle for all future acquisitions
  2. Bring current contract holders onto the new consolidated schedule
  3. Consolidate those businesses that have multiple contracts across many schedules(Federal Times January 31, 2020)

Terms and conditions are being standardized and all current contract holders and contractors, placed on the consolidated schedule, must respond to them by July 31, 2020. (ibid)

Questions about the consolidation and how you and your contracts are affected? Give us a call.

Unpricing GSA

The Coalition for Government Procurement has been lobbying for an unpriced schedule, and Section 876 of Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act provides just that. It authorizes agencies, specifically GSA and its Schedules (41 USC 152) to not include price or cost as an evaluation criterion when awarding hourly rate and service contracts.  (Federal News Network, January 10, 2020)

An unpriced schedule is seen as more efficient by:

  • Allowing for evaluation against actual requirements
  • Reducing oversight activities associated with auditing of the award and the Price Reductions Clause
  • Honing competition by permitting customers to highlight speed and need for agency-specific service requirements
  • Allowing for common commercial practices in structuring contracts
  • Reducing hurdles to market entry for small businesses by allowing federal customers to leverage technology to meet end mission goals (ibid)

As we mentioned earlier in the week, GSA’s IG found that current pricing tools are resulting in insufficient price determinations. In many cases, the use of the CALC and CODCD pricing tools result in agency overpayment. The IG report stated, the “intent of the MAS Program is to leverage the government’s buying power in an effort to provide customer agencies with competitive, market-based pricing… GSA’s contracting officers are required to seek the best price granted to the contractor’s most favored commercial customer.”

The report outlines GSAM requirements that guide pricing determinations, such as requiring the government to pursue most favored customer pricing. It also defines methods that contracting officers should use to compare the terms and conditions of the MAS solicitation with those of the offeror’s commercial customers. MAS allows agencies to take advantage of the government’s purchasing power; moreover, it offers a channel for agencies to obtain commercial services and products swiftly. Per the statute, all responsible sources participate in the program, and all orders “result in the lowest overall cost alternative to meet the needs of the Federal Government (41 USC 152).” (ibid)

GSAR 538.270-1, states, “the Government recognizes that the terms and conditions of commercial sales vary and there may be legitimate reasons why the best price is not achieved.” This language actually reinforces leveraging the unpriced schedule. It highlights the complexity around contract-level pricing that is removed from government requirements reflected in a specific order. (ibid)

Federal News Network editorializes that an unpriced schedule focuses the price evaluation on actual requirements in real-time as they are being sought in the market. This type of competition, for agency-specific requirements, results in the most cost-effective, best value outcome for the agency.When resources are focused on competition, it’s a win for agencies, GSA and industry providers.

If you’re interested in learning more, give us a call.

GSA Pricing Tools, Untooling

A GSA internal watchdog has found the two comparative labor pricing tools contain flawed data and recommends GSA stop using the pricing tools. GSA however, plans to keep the current pricing tools in place for now. (FCS, January 2, 2020)

This report shows the use of discrepant data in flawed equations, thus arriving at unreliable pricing data. GSA’s Inspector General (IG) said, “the data and calculations are so flawed, they’re dulling the federal government’s buying power edge, as well as possibly resulting in the overpayment on contracts.” (ibid)

Julie Dunne, FAS Acting Commissioner, agrees with the IG that the two tools, Contract-Awarded Labor Category tool (CALC)  and Contract Operations Division Contractors Database (CODCD) used for labor pricing, are not the optimal. She also agrees about a need for pricing comparison capabilities; however, she refrains from wanting to scrap these tools in lieu of something else that might bring even greater inaccuracies. 

Dunne went on to say that without the current tools, labor pricing would be determined by individual searches via the internet resulting in more inaccuracies. She acknowledged that decisions on comparison pricing for labor have always been the judgment of FAS contracting officers. “Disallowing access to aggregated information about previously-awarded MAS contracts does not further our goal of improving pricing. Quality price analyses are the result of training, expertise and appropriate controls. FAS believes our continued focus in these areas will improve how comparative data is used in our MAS award documentation.” (ibid)

Have questions concerning your current labor pricing? Give us a call.

Open Ratings Closed

Open Ratings stopped accepting new orders for Past Performance Evaluations as of Friday, 6 December 2019. All Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) offerers must now demonstrate a sample of past performance by using one of the methods outlined by the solicitation:

  1. verify in eOffer there are three or more CPARS assessment reports that meet the solicitation criteria outlined in SCP-FSS-001 (j)(2)(ii)(A) or
  2. submit a past performance record and list of customer references as outlined in SCP-FSS-001 (j)(2)(ii)(C) when the offeror does not have CPARS assessments that satisfy the solicitation criteria in SCP-FSS-001 (j)(2)(ii)(A).  GSA will contact all customer references and request they complete a past performance questionnaire. Note – offerors should not upload completed past performance questionnaires with the MAS offer. (GSA Interact, December 18, 2019)

An offeror’s demonstration of past performance is limited to the methods spelled out in the solicitation. Additionally, GSA will not accept Dun & Bradstreet reports in lieu of the Past Performance Evaluation prepared by Open Ratings. Any offerors who ordered an Open Ratings Past Performance Evaluation on or before December 6, 2019, can use SCP-FSS-001 (j)(2)(ii)(B) to demonstrate a pattern of Past Performance if the Open Ratings Past Performance Evaluation uploaded to the offer is dated within one year of the offer submission and the offeror had no CPARS assessments that satisfied the solicitation criteria as spelled out in the SCP-FSS-001 (j)(2)(ii)(A). (ibid)

Is this all perfectly clear? If not, give us a call and we can walk you through the steps to demonstrate the acceptable Past Performance for a MAS offer.