Yesterday GSA issued a notice to its Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) contractors entitled “Improving Product Number Data Quality on GSA Schedules.” The notice states the GSA is seeking “to improve product data quality on MAS through submission of all awarded base products and associated descriptive data on GSA Advantage.” According to the notice, GSA is asking MAS contractors “to improve the integrity of your schedule offerings by submitting Universal Product Codes (UPC) and Manufacturer Part Number (MPN) for each awarded contract item.”
The notice further directs MAS contractors to upload all base product contract line items with UPCs and MPNs to GSA Advantage via SIP within 90 days. The notice also includes a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs). The FAQs confirm the requirement to upload to GSA Advantage all base products with the corresponding UPC or MPN.
Interestingly, the notice cites compliance with clause I-FSS-600 Contract Price Lists (Oct 2013) and clause 552.238-71 Submission and Distribution of Authorized FSS Schedule Price Lists as one of the goals of this initiative. However, neither of the clauses requires submission of a UPC or MPN. For example, subparagraph (b)(3) of Clause I-FSS-600 lists over 26 data elements that MAS contractors must include in their price lists. UPC and MPN are not among those specific data elements. Clause 552.238-71 sets forth the requirement for submission and distribution of the price list but does not specifically identify/list the data elements to be included in the price list. That these clauses are silent regarding the submission of the UPC and MPN raises questions whether the notice is consistent with the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act.
Generally, the Paperwork Reduction Act requires that where the government is seeking to collect data from the public, it must provide the public with notice and an opportunity to comment on the paperwork burden associated with the proposed new data reporting requirement. The notice and opportunity to comment for procurement data collection requirements is done through the Federal Register. The Paperwork Reduction Act ensures that the costs/burdens on the public of any proposed data reporting requirement are appropriately and transparently considered by the government. It is an important tool to ensure accountability when the government seeks to impose new reporting burdens.
In this case GSA should address why it is not following the process called for by the Paperwork Reduction Act, as the burden on the public (MAS contractors) will be significant. Indeed, given the millions of potential variations in models, parts, specifications and products, many MAS contractors will find compliance with the notice impossible, or at the very least cost prohibitive. The Coalition has already heard from MAS contractors indicating that the notice will require significant changes to their electronic systems. Here again is a situation where GSA is adding additional contract reporting requirements that increase operational costs for contractors without any real assessment of the burdens.
Moreover, although FAS has sought some feedback regarding the notice, to date there has been no real direct, fulsome dialogue with MAS contractors regarding the new requirements. Perhaps the notice is intended to begin that dialogue. However, the notice does not make that clear. Rather it directs submission of the information to the extent it is available. At the same time, FAS Commissioner Tom Sharpe has reached out to the Coalition seeking a dialogue regarding the notice. To that end, the Coalition will be hosting a meeting with the FAS Commissioner and our members focusing on the notice and its impact.
As soon as we have worked out the logistics we will let you know the time and place of the meeting.