Assessment of the General Services Administration's Use of Commercial Item Descriptions

PLRD-83-43: Published: Mar 3, 1983. Publicly Released: Mar 5, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO assessed General Services Administration (GSA) efforts to use commercial item descriptions (CID) to procure supplies and equipment. CID are brief, simple descriptions of commercial or commercial-type products and are used in lieu of detailed specifications.

GAO found that CID procurements showed a small decrease in the price of products and a slight increase in the number of bidders on procurements. However, GAO could not determine the impact of other factors on the number of bidders and the prices paid. GAO found that the use of CID did not adversely affect competition for contracts. Generally, manufacturers interviewed believe that the requirements are not restrictive. The manufacturers feel that CID are simpler, easier to comprehend, and contain fewer requirements than their predecessor specifications. They also believe that the requirements for CID are standard for the industries involved and can be satisfied with products from inventories. GAO found that there were fewer complaints about quality as a result of the use of CID. Users believe that items purchased using CID perform as well as items formerly purchased with Federal specifications. GAO did not find any evidence that bid protests increased due to CID procedures. The review did not indicate that small business contracting opportunities have been reduced as a result of CID or that CID limited small business participation. Small Business Administration officials knew of no problems attributable to CID. However, GAO did find that the failure to cite specific commercial requirements has created some problems with spillage and variations in the number of items in shipping containers, but GSA has taken action to prevent these problems and ensure uniformity in packaging.

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