Tracking government “openness” changes in contracting

By Jenni Taylor, manager, government programs and contracts

Federal contracting officers are moving towards more openness in procurement, which is a step forward in the cumbersome federal procurement process, according to Michael Fischetti, executive director of the National Contract Management Association.

Fischetti’s remarks came during a panel discussion at our recent Government IT Sales Summit, titled “Without a Contract, There Is No Deal: Updates on Contracts and Procurement.”

Contracting problems occur in government because contract professionals “are at the end of a long chain” of requirements definitions, budget analysis, time, coordination and approvals that Fischetti says often have nothing to do with requirements themselves. Despite that long process, Fischetti added that the federal procurement generally works free of political intervention.

To improve openness, and to help the General Services Administration (GSA) keep better track of products and their cost, GSA is making a few changes to its practices.

In the past, vendors put products on their GSA schedule by filling out a Commercial Sales Practice (CSP) form, certifying a discount structure to be offered on their GSA schedule.

Once GSA agrees to the price, it identifies a “most favored customer price.” The problem here is that salespeople may be selling products for less than that price, which is not necessarily tracked until GSA performs an audit. That means a company can owe money retroactively to the government, sometimes adding up to tens of millions of dollars.

Government is looking to do away with the CSP requirement, in favor of “transactional data reporting.” This practice eliminates the CSP requirement. In lieu of the CSP form, vendors that opted into the pilot are now required to report sales on a regular basis, which will, in turn, provide evidence to lower contract pricing.

By getting away from a reactive audit process, in favor of something more proactive. They can monitor and establish sales earlier in the process, and create a more appropriate price structure.

GSA has also created new Highly Adaptive Cyber Security (HACS) and Schedule Identification Numbers (SINS) to better track how product purchases relate to contract requirements. Four new SINs relating to cybersecurity, including penetration testing, incident response, cyber hunt, risk and vulnerability assessment. They were created so that the government had better transparency into understanding how much of a contract was being directed towards various types of cybersecurity initiatives.

The challenge from a sales perspective is that there is now a new process for additional item numbers. If you haven’t updated your schedule when you don’t have those new categories under your schedule, then you can’t bid on that project.

Other SIN numbers also have been introduced for cloud services.

immixGroup holds several contracts, including Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP), Network-Centric Solutions (NETCENTS) and Information Technology Enterprise Solutions-Software (ITES) to support partners that need to work with these contracts.

Changes have been made to many of these contracts because of an increased emphasis on supply chain risk management. Unless vendors have the proper certifications, they cannot bid on opportunities that have a SCRM requirement. In other contract news, agencies can now establish a catalog on SEWP V for products they need to purchase on a regular basis. ITES-SW changes include a contract ceiling increase from $49 million to $179 million, and ITES-SW2 RFI and solicitation will be released in 2018.

The Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program, which immixGroup has been a part of since 2013, has also seen recent changes. The Alliant contract is going to be the services acquisition contract for the CDM program, allowing those primes to procure products from immixGroup. They no longer have to get the product from us to include as part of their solicitation; they can come to us post-award and let us know what they need.

Companies that are confused about what specific proposals mean should not shy away from asking questions, as long as they go to the appropriate people, Fischetti said. The right time to ask questions about interpretive guidance is “any time until the RFP is released to industry.” There are no inhibitors to information gathering from the time of an RFI until the time of an RFP award, especially if there’s any ambiguity in what that solicitation says.

Want to hear more? Listen to our entire session and learn more about immixGroup’s contract vehicles.

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About Jenni Taylor
Jenni is the CDM program point of contact for immixGroup. She’s the liaison between CDM BPA holders and manufacturer account teams and is responsible for contractual relationships. She supports contract and pricing administration to ensure CDM contract compliance. Jenni has been immixGroup’s contract programs manager since 2014 and also manages other enterprise contract vehicles.

One Response to Tracking government “openness” changes in contracting

  1. Pingback: Tracking government “openness” changes in contracting - Government Aggregator

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