By Patricia Fusco
The U.S. Small Business Administration has launched its SBAExchange Pilot Program — an electronic purchasing tool designed to facilitate small business e-procurement opportunities and improve the efficiency and accountability of current government procurement processes.
The mission of the SBAExchange is two-fold; to reduce costs and improve efficiency and accountability of procuring goods and services by federal agencies from small businesses, and to help small businesses participate in an e-procurement system that requires little or no technical expertise or equipment investment.
The SBAExchange is an online tool that allows agencies to award simplified acquisitions up to $100,000 (including micro-purchases) to small businesses.
Purchases and payments are made electronically with government-wide commercial purchase cards.
Government agencies will be able to use SBAExchange to award purchases over $25,000 that have been posted in Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps), provided the notice states that the award will be made electronically. The program is designed to help small businesses compete for purchases that are currently being obtained through other contracting methods.
To participate, small businesses must obtain an Internet-based Supplier Web Site from the SBAExchange. Through the Supplier Web Site a small business receive:
- A fully hosted, supplier branded, e-commerce website;
- Exposure to federal buying authorities, large federal prime contractors
and other large buying officials;
- An electronic catalog;
- A centralized order management system for receiving and processing
Internet- based orders from federal, state, local and commercial buying
- A management system for tracking new business, creating and submitting
- Assistance in managing the new site.
SBA plans to kick-off this pilot program nationally on March 30, 2003 when agencies can begin awarding transactions through the system. In order to ensure a successful launch in March, the small business electronic catalog development period began on October 30, 2002.
The U.S. SBA entered into a contract with NEXGEN Solutions, Inc. build the national e-procurement system so that small businesses can participate in conducting e-business transactions with a relatively low cost of entry and little or no technical expertise.
The annual cost to participate in the SBAExchange Pilot Program is $1,500. Additionally, a transaction fee of two percent will be added to all orders.