Buzz of the Week

A costly $20,000 contract

One early lesson all feds learn is you don’t want to end up on the front page of the Washington Post. Lurita Doan, administrator of the General Services Administration, learned that lesson the hard way Jan. 19.

But that rule may not be the only one she violated. The Washington Post story “GSA Chief Scrutinized For Deal With Friend” states that both the GSA inspector general and the Justice Department are investigating a $20,000 contract that GSA planned to award to “a division of her friend’s public relations firm…for a 24-page report promoting the GSA’s use of minority- and woman-owned businesses.”

In the Post story, Doan said the contract was a mistake.

“I thought I was moving this along,” she told the Post. “I was immediately informed that I wasn’t necessarily moving it along in the way that was best for it. So at which point they canceled it, life went on, no money exchanged hands, no contract exchanged hands.”

Many observers suggest that this probably is a case of misjudgment rather than corruption. After all, it was only a $20,000 contract. But it is a concern, nevertheless. In general, no-bid contracts are rife with potential questions. Most procurement experts advise against doing them. But beyond that, the words “no-bid” and “friend’s company” should never appear in the same sentence. If they do, it should set off not only red flags but fireworks.

In our experience with Doan, she clearly wants to get things done. That has led to a bullishness that doesn’t always work well in government. People may talk about running government like a business. But for better or worse, it just doesn’t work that way.

In the end, this could become the most expensive $20,000 that GSA didn’t spend.


The Buzz contenders

#2: Talkin’ Networx (finally)
Elsewhere on the General Services Administration front…Networx. First the good news: In late December, the Treasury Department agreed to dump its controversial Treasury Communications Enterprise contract and use GSA’s Networx contract instead. Now the bad news: Word about Treasury’s price break leaked out, and officials at other agencies wonder how they can get in on the deal. After remaining silent for two weeks, GSA officials finally addressed the question, insisting that the deal is so limited that other agencies won’t be looking for the same terms. Stay tuned: This may be a recurring topic.

#3: Announcing USA.gov
FirstGov.gov is soooo 2000. GSA has rechristened the government Web portal USA.gov, saying it is a more recognizable name. The public apparently voted for the change via Google. Last year, more than 600,000 people typed in “usa.gov” when searching for government information.

#4: The SARA panel gets reviewed

Commission reports usually end up on a shelf somewhere, never to be seen again. That won’t happen with the Acquisition Advisory Panel’s report — at least not yet. In November 2006, when his party was still in the majority, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) asked the Government Accountability Office to review the panel’s report in hopes that it could serve as a starting point for further discussions about government procurement. But this GAO report might also end up on a shelf if House Democrats have their own procurement plans in mind.

#5: Funding telework
Many government executives are becoming more comfortable with the concept of telework, but some concerns still linger. GAO has addressed one such concern by saying that the government can pay for a teleworker’s high-speed Internet at home. In a case involving the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, GAO said the agency can pay those costs but should closely oversee the program to protect against any “private misuse.”

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About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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