Quoting Open Market Items through GSA eBuy

Quoting Open Market Items through GSA eBuy

The GSA eBuy provides the US federal government and military services worldwide an online acquisition and procurement site to find commodities and solutions at a competitive value and price. Government buyers must purchase pre-assessed products and services from a GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS), also known as a GSA Schedule.

What is eBuy?

GSA eBuy is a Request for Quote (RFQ) or Request for Information (RFI) system that enables government buyers to request information, connect with sources, and ask and receive quotes from GSA Schedule contractors. US federal agencies and military services worldwide use GSA eBuy to obtain required competition, best pricing, and value. The GSA eBuy is a powerful acquisition tool that saves government buyers time and money. Furthermore, with the GSA eBuy, government buyers can acquire products and services with great pricing and value while maintaining compliance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).

What Products and Services may get Quoted through eBuy?

GSA has established the GSA eBuy system mainly for quoting GSA Schedule items. Thus, it is a must that when responding to Requests for Quote (RFQs) via the GSA eBuy system, GSA Schedule contractors only quote items within the GSA Schedule contract. Furthermore, contractors must not quote prices for any “open market items” or products and services that have not gotten awarded a MAS contract.

Although the GSA eBuy system has been vocal and stern with its policies, there exists a systemic problem among contractors who neglect these regulations and continue quoting open market items and other contract vehicle quotes outside the limits of their GSA Schedule.

Similarly, contractors providing services instead of products should not submit a quote for services under the “in lieu of” categories. Like “open market items,” services under the “in lieu of” categories do not constitute a proper labor category as they have not gotten awarded a MAS contract.

Why GSA Contractors Shouldn’t Quote Open Market Items on eBuy

Now, take this with a grain of salt. You can offer up a “Majority GSA’ Proposal and it is OK in most circumstances as long as Open market items are (1) not the majority of the price (and the less the better), and (2) categorized properly as “Open Market.”

However, FAR Subpart 8.404(a) stipulates that ordering activities “shall not” pursue competition outside the GSA Schedule program. This section signifies that when placing orders against GSA Schedule contracts, ordering activities must not consider nor compare open market items with GSA Schedule items. The products or services that contractors will quote outside their GSA Schedule will automatically face rejection.

In simpler terms, contractors who quote open market items or “in lieu of” categorized services are not compliant with the FAR procedures nor meeting the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA) requirements and thus, may face penalties.

Ultimately, ensuring that all quotes submitted via the GSA eBuy system are only the products and services within the bounds of a GSA Schedule is beneficial to both the government buyers and the GSA Schedule contractors. Contrarily, quoting open market items will slow down the system and the process between the contractors and the government buyers. Furthermore, contractors will only waste their time quoting unusable products or services, and government buyers will waste their time going through quotes that they cannot accept in the end. As a corrective measure, GSA advised government buyers to mark any contractors quoting open market items through the GSA eBuy system as non-responsive.

Exceptions for Other Direct Costs (ODCs)

Although generally unacceptable, there are exceptions to the rule wherein contractors are allowed to sell Other Direct Costs (ODCs) that are not part of their GSA Schedule through the GSA eBuy system. ODCs are costs not identified as a direct material cost, direct labor cost, or indirect cost but are essential to facilitate good work performance. ODCs include:

  • Computer services
  • Consulting services
  • Preservation, packaging, and preservation costs

To qualify their products or services for this exception, contractors can undertake either of the two ways: Order Level Materials (OLM) or Open Marker Procedures.

Order Level Materials (OLM)

In essence, Order Level Materials (OLMs) are products or services procured directly supporting an individual task. OLMs also work when the supplies or services ordered against a GSA Schedule or Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) were still unknown at the time of the GSA Schedule award. When dealing with Order Level Materials, prices are established and acquired at the order level. Furthermore, the Contracting Officer assigned for the order will be responsible for determining whether the costs of OLMs are compliant with GSA regulations, and thus, are “fair and reasonable.” Moreover, contractors need to:

  • Acquire an OLM SIN through a Mass Modification, specifically, Mass Mod #A815;
  • Ensure that the accumulative value of the OLM contract does not exceed 33.33% of the total order value;
  • Offer OLMs as a separate Contract Line Item (CLINs);
  • Integrate the Industrial Funding Fee (IFF) in pricing each item to remit the IFF to GSA; and
  • Obtain quotes from at least three suppliers for each OLM above the Simplified Acquisition Threshold (SAT) of $250,000.

Open Market Procedures

The IAW FAR Subpart 8.402(f) maintains that businesses can add open market items to a GSA Schedule order provided that all items are compliant to open market procedures. Items under open market procedures are essentially Other Direct Costs but can be other items.

Contractors must guarantee that all open market procedures get followed through for these items. There are no dollar or percentage limitations for open market CLINS. Thus, contractors can quote the Other Direct Costs within quotes, although its approval lies in the assigned Contracting Officer’s hands.

Conclusion

The GSA eBuy system got established as a Request for Quote (RFQ) or Request for Information (RFI). Government buyers can enjoy the streamlined process of requesting information, finding and connecting to sources, and requesting and receiving quotes from GSA Schedule contractors. Through the GSA eBuy system, GSA Schedule contractors can use their GSA Schedule to quote or bid on projects.

GSA contractors and government buyers must adhere to Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) to keep a smooth and efficient flow in the requisition process. GSA Schedule contractors must only quote products within the limits of their GSA Schedule. Moreover, Government buyers must only purchase pre-assessed products and services from a GSA Schedule. Keeping in compliance with these regulations puts both parties in a good light and is beneficial to save time and effort in going through the government buying process.

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