The Importance of Understanding the Master Contract

» Posted by on Nov 30, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Travel Management Centers, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Civilian agencies have placed task orders under the GSA Schedule for their TMCs but, in my experience,  they may often lack an understanding of exactly what is covered in the TMC Master Contract.  This puts agencies at a severe disadvantage when questions do arise since the an agency’s acquisition personnel usually have no familiarity with government travel issues.

It has been my experience that acquisition personnel are also not familiar with the details of the Master Contract when they place the Task Order for the agency.  The Task Order is not a complete contract and it does not have many of the specifics that are in the Master Contract.  And of course, the travel teams at various agencies are most familiar only with their own negotiated Task Order  This leads to unnecessary confusion and even botched negotiations when dealing with exactly what is covered by the Master Contract.

A case in point, a few years ago our travel agency was bought by another TMC vendor,  After introductions they informed us that we would soon owe them an additional fee for segments because the GDS had enacted new fees after an interim law forbidding such increases had recently lapsed.  Now the TMC had known for several years that their GDS fees would increase and would have to be passed on to the civilian agencies, but they were presenting this to us as a “new” fee.  Our Contracting Officer was inclined to agree to the fee under the Task Order, since the TMC said that DOD had agreed to pay the fee without any protests and “other agencies” were also going to be agreeing.  I challenged the fee on the grounds that it should’ve been known prior to the vendor when they were doing their pricing proposal on the GSA Master contract.  The other issue was that we had nothing from GSA indicating that it had ever been approved for reimbursement and it should’ve been handled at the Master Contract level since it would affect every civilian agency.  There was resistance to this view by the new owner of our travel agency vendor, but in the end they left without us approving the new fee.  GSA eventually amended the Master Contract to include the fee at a later date, I believe, but it was not implemented at the Task Order level.  DOD had an entirely different Master Contract and the “new” fee had actually been negotiated in advance on their contract.

Anyone can obtain permission to read the GSA Master Contract/RFP online by requesting permission from the GSA travel acquisition office.  I strongly recommend that Government travel managers do so, or at the very least, sit down with their Contracting Officer and review it online with them to make sure that both parties have a good understanding of both the contracting and technical details.  This was only one example of a problem, and there will not doubt be many more in the course of these contracts.

by Julie Speers

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