GSA Hopes eBuy Transparency Will Lead To More Competition, Not More Protests

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A select group of buyers will be posting their award information on FedBizOpps during the one-year pilot.

The General Services Administration hopes a new pilot program to increase transparency in a fast track government buying service will lead to more competition, but some government vendors worry it will just produce more legal wrangling.

Over the next year, the General Services Administration is going to be publicly releasing data from some buyers in its eBuy system for the first time.

The eBuy system allows agencies to post requests for quotations for specific products and services on GSA schedules. Those requests are then released to vendors based on the special item number associated with the goods or services being sought. Once the bids are entered, the contracting officers can make awards directly, though there is little transparency for those not directly involved in the process.

Over the next year, pilot participants will log awards based on eBuy RFQs on the FedBizOpps website. Those awards will be tagged with the keyword “eBuyPilot.”

“Making this data public will be especially helpful for small businesses who often aren’t able to dedicate resources to navigate the government contracting process,” GSA Administrator Emily Murphy said in a statement announcing the pilot. “Increasing competition and improving transparency supports the priorities I have established while leading GSA and will ultimately enable GSA contracts to produce greater value for the American taxpayer.”

While GSA contracting officials hope more transparency will lead to more competition for contracts and more contractors joining GSA programs, vendors have expressed concerns that such transparency could lead to fewer quality bids and more bid protests from competing vendors.

Bid protests can often delay an award by weeks or months.

Officials opted for a one-year limited pilot program to evaluate vendor concerns and to identify any unintended consequences.

“Stakeholders have been asking for access to eBuy [data] for some time,” said Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Alan Thomas. “This pilot enables GSA to explore the best options to improve transparency in the eBuy program.”

The pilot is only running on a select group of buyers, namely GSA’s Office of Internal Acquisition and the Region 7 Southwest Supply and Acquisition Center, which use eBuy more than other divisions, according to GSA. Orders from certain GSA schedules will not be included in the pilot: the Transportation, Delivery and Relocation Solutions (Schedule 48), the Hardware Superstore (Schedule 51V) and the Office Products/Supplies and Services and New Products/Technology (Schedule 75).

GSA will also be tracking a control group of buyers using eBuy but not participating in the pilot to see how results vary.

The pilot officially began Oct. 10 and will run through Oct. 9, 2019.