Requirements to get bids for needed products seem to be in the public interest, but when a manager is simply trying to buy a workstation for a new employee, the regular process can be burdensome and lengthy.
Fortunately, there’s a much easier process: NASA Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP), a U.S. Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) authorized by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Using a micro-purchase card for expenditures less than $3,500 simplifies buying because no bidding process is required. In many cases, it operates much like ordering from traditional online retailers.
Slightly less than one-third of the transactions that flow through SEWP use a micro-purchase card, estimates Joanne Woytek, NASA SEWP program manager. She says the agency processed about 35,000 transactions in 2016, and about 10,000 of those were with micro-purchase cards.
Here’s how the micro-purchase process operates:
Using the micro-purchase card is such a simple process that the SEWP help desk often gets comments from first-time users who wish they had known it was so easy, Woytek says.
As an example, Insight Public Sector, one of the eight SEWP providers with its own micro-purchase ordering site, recently overhauled its website expressly to make it more user-friendly. Now when using a micro-purchase card, the process is much like shopping on Amazon, reports Gayle Troan, SEWP program manager at Insight.
Sometimes customers might want an item or product for which they don’t have a contract line item number. In those instances, customers can request any in-scope product or service, even if it’s not yet on contract. The contract holder can then submit a request to add the necessary items to their contract. If approved, it can then provide the customer with a quote.
Such requests are handled within one business day on all orders, and SEWP verifies the quoted and ordered items are on contract, Woytek says.
She advises potential buyers not to be intimidated by the SEWP website. SEWP focuses primarily on easing the acquisition process for purchases above the micro-purchase limit. As a result, many of its tools and information are geared toward large purchases.
“But with the micro-purchase web page,” Woytek explains, “it really is easy for a credit card customer to utilize SEWP and benefit from the overall government rules for micro-purchase orders.”