Report: NIMA not complying with FAR

National Imagery and Mapping Agency procurement officials did not comply with the Federal Acquisition Regulation and other appropriate contracting policies and procedures in recently awarded professional and technical service contracts, according to a report from the Defense Department's inspector general.

From fiscal 2000 through fiscal 2002, NIMA awarded more than 1,900 service contracts totaling more than $1.3 billion in support of agency operations. In awarding those contracts, NIMA staff neglected to follow service contracting policies and procedures provided in the FAR and NIMA's own Acquisition Regulation Implementation, according to the June 6 IG report.

It is unclear what action, if any, may result from the IG report.

Under service contracts, vendors perform a specific service rather than produce a solution.

"Certainly you want to have reasonable justification in contract files for award decisions, though agencies should avoid documentation fetishes," said Steve Kelman, professor of public management at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy during the Clinton administration. "I wish, though, the IG had looked at whether or not the contracts delivered good results for the government. That's a more important question than how good the contracting paperwork was."

The report also found that NIMA awarded task orders without considering competition and historical data. "As a result, service contracts were not awarded in the most efficient and effective manner, and may have cost the department more money."

NIMA officials dispute that claim.

"NIMA concurs with the thrust of the DOD IG audit report that procurement files should contain more comprehensive documentation," agency spokeswoman Joan Mears wrote in an e-mail message. "We are pleased that the audit report had no findings that NIMA procurement actions were improper or inefficient."

The IG report recommends that NIMA develop criteria and a training program to maintain adequate and complete contract files. It also recommends that NIMA develop mandatory comprehensive acquisition training for all contract personnel as specified by federal requirements; implement management oversight strategies for service contracts under $30 million to ensure that contracts are awarded and administered to achieve intended results; and review the assignment of contract surveillance and adjust workloads and staffing to resolve any imbalances.

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Mapping problems

Between May 2002 and March 2003, the Defense Department inspector general "judgmentally selected and reviewed" 86 contract actions, valued at $247.3 million, determining if there were problems. The following problems were identified:

* 85 independent government cost estimates were missing or inadequate.

* 77 technical evaluations were missing or inadequate.

* 55 price negotiation memorandums were missing or inadequate.

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