GSA Reissues E-Commerce Platform Solicitation With Significant Changes

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Vendors that bid on the original RFP will have until Jan. 15 to revise their proposals.

After an extended bid period and a short-lived protest, the General Services Administration has rereleased the request for proposals for an e-commerce platform with some significant changes. However, vendors that didn’t bid on the original proposal won’t get another chance this time around.

The government buyers at GSA want federal employees to be able to purchase standard goods through a digital platform, similar to e-commerce platforms like Amazon. For the last few years, the agency has been working on a solicitation for just such a platform and released an RFP in October for “online e-marketplace platforms [that] feature multiple suppliers offering the same product and will allow buyers to decide which supplier/product combination meets their needs.”

The first instance of this platform will be a three-year, multiple-award pilot to test the marketplace idea. Once up and running, agencies will be able to purchase products directly through the portal for any transactions under the micropurchase threshold of $10,000.

After bids were submitted in mid-November, GSA received a protest of the solicitation, prompting the agency to pull it back and rework the RFP. The agency reissued the solicitation Wednesday, with revised bids due Jan. 15.

The revised solicitation includes several changes. The most important is the insertion of language in two places requiring bidders to provide a full, working solution rather than one developed in conjunction with GSA.

"Please note that prospective offerors must have a functioning e-marketplace platform with B2B capabilities that can meet the requirements identified,” the new text reads. “GSA is not seeking development services to build a new platform as that is not permissible under the authority granted under the Section 846 legislation."

GSA also added text to the RFP limiting the period of performance to the three-year base and asserting that the awards would not be extended beyond the initial proof of concept.

Analysts at The Pulse of GovCon offered a line-by-line look at revisions, down to changes in footnotes. Along with the addition of the “functioning e-marketplace platform” language, GSA officials removed some text from the documents, including this bolded line from the statement of objectives:

E-marketplace platform models that are eligible to participate in this contract connect buyers online to a virtual marketplace that sells either an e-marketplace provider’s products and third-party vendor products or only third-party vendor products. E-marketplace platform providers and third-party vendors are generally responsible for fulfilling orders for their respective products with some exceptions where the platform provider may complete order fulfillment on behalf of the third-party vendors. These online e-marketplace platforms feature multiple suppliers offering the same product and will allow buyers to decide which supplier/product combination meets their needs. Competition occurs at both the supplier and product levels in the e-marketplace platform model given the access to third-party suppliers’ products and potentially the e-marketplace platform provider’s products.

In a number of places, GSA also changed “required” to “important,” The Pulse noted.

“To me, this seems to be watering down the result and so the vendor isn’t backed into the corner,” analysts said, “A.K.A., this made it more vendor-friendly.”

Analysts also noted the absence of the government’s inspection requirements—section C.10 of the original RFP. The language—copied below from the original RFP—was removed entirely from the amended solicitation.

The Contractor is responsible for delivering services in accordance with the requirements in the [statement of objectives]. The [contracting officer] shall ensure performance of all necessary actions for effective contracting, ensure compliance with the contract terms, and shall safeguard the interests of the United States in the contractual relationship. The CO shall also assure that the contractor receives impartial, fair, and equitable treatment under this contract. The CO is ultimately responsible for the final determination of the adequacy of the contractor’s performance.

The CO may delegate surveillance and oversight responsibilities to the [contracting officer's reporesentative] and other authorized Government personnel at the CO’s discretion.

With these changes in place, GSA has extended the bid deadline to Jan. 15. However, only vendors who submitted bids to the original RFP by Nov. 15 are eligible to revise their proposals.

“New proposals will not be accepted by the government,” the RFP states.