GSA Schedule and Acquisition Policy officials no doubt had good intentions when they crafted the proposed rule that would require Schedule contractors to collect and transmit transaction information on Schedule sales in exchange for eliminating the Basis of Award trigger for the Price Reductions Clause.  Intentions, however, have a way of getting side-tracked, and so it has become with the proposed rule.  Given the discussion at the April 17th public meeting on the proposed rule, it should be withdrawn immediately.

Representatives from the GSA and VA Offices of the Inspector General made clear that they oppose the removal of the Price Reductions Clause Basis of Award trigger, the one carrot GSA is offering.  Although GSA’s own analysis showed that only 3% (itself likely a high number) of price reductions were due to the Basis of Award trigger, IG representatives acted as if innocents would be led to the slaughter without it.  Similarly, there was no clear answer as to whether data collected and transmitted by contractors would become part of a pre-award audit.  Absent a definitive “no”, it will have to be assumed that “yes, transactional data will constitute a new IG audit right.”

With industry uniformly opposed to the transactional data element, the specter of zero Price Reductions Clause relief coupled with increased audit exposure, should be enough for GSA to shelve this idea.

GSA officials didn’t really help their own cause.  No sooner had FAS Deputy Commissioner Kevin Youel Page insist that the transactional data requirement was not all about lowest price, another GSA official showed a “True Car” commercial to emphasize what the proposal was all about.  That would, of course, be getting the lowest price.

A casual observer would have concluded that most Multiple Award Schedule transactions are for commodity-type products that lend themselves to easy comparisons.  In fact, the great majority of Schedule sales are for services and solutions that have multiple-variables, making accurate comparisons via an automated price comparison tool next to impossible.  Even “True Car” comparisons can be of limited utility, depending on the timing of a purchase, dealer inventory, options and other factors.

Sometimes decisions are hard.  Given the unworkable nature of the tool for most Schedule transactions, increased costs to industry, the likelihood that there will be no change to the Price Reductions Clause, and increased audit exposure for contractors, this should not be one of them.  GSA should withdraw the rule and find other ways to strengthen the Multiple Award Schedules program.