Denett focuses on FPDS data

Proponents of better federal contracting decry lack of reliable contracting data

Unreliable data about federal contracting hampers efforts to make it more competitive, according to the latest memo from Paul Denett, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, who has issued a series of memos to confront the problem.

In the most recent memo, Denett asked the General Services Administration to develop a new series of standard database reports on contract actions documented in GSA’s Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS).

Denett said the reports are necessary to help lawmakers and federal officials analyze recent trends in federal contract actions and understand the effect of those trends on the federal acquisition workforce. However, the usefulness of those reports will depend largely on agencies’ efforts to verify and validate the accuracy of data they submit to FPDS, Denett said.

FPDS collects data on various types of contract actions, such as new contracts, task and delivery orders, and contract modifications.

Marcia Madsen, chairwoman of the Services Acquisition Reform Act panel and a partner at the law firm Mayer Brown Rowe and Maw, said OFPP recognizes that the government is issuing more task and delivery orders and competing fewer new contracts, but it wants more facts to analyze how that trend is affecting overall competition.

“We don’t have good data on how competitive it is, and we need to have it,” Madsen said.

OFPP is not the only agency responding to a growing demand for more accurate and accessible information on federal contracting. Small Business Administration Administrator Steven Preston said last week that SBA wants to make federal agencies’ small-business contracting efforts more visible.

Beginning this summer, SBA will issue a score card that rates agencies on their small-business contracts. The scores — red, yellow and green — will be similar to those on the quarterly Executive Branch Management Scorecard, which tracks how well the government is implementing the President’s Management Agenda.

SBA will issue few green scores in the first go-round, Preston said. Making that information public will encourage agencies to be more careful in tracking their small-business contracts, he added.

“Transparency is a huge motivator for getting stuff right,” Preston said, speaking to reporters after a speech at the 2007 Management of Change conference in Richmond, Va. “I think we’re going to see the quality of small-business procurement activity go up” because of the score cards, he said.

However, until then,  SBA is pushing agencies to simply get their data right, Preston said. “There is just too much bad data out there.”

Because of widespread public interest in federal contracting data, lawmakers passed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act in 2006. Beginning six months from now, that law requires the government to have a Web site that anyone can peruse to see every amount the government spends on contracts and grants.

Meanwhile, OFPP is trying as quickly as possible to improve the accuracy of contracting data in FPDS. In a March 9 memo, Denett wrote that some recent changes in FPDS have improved the integrity of its data. But more has to be done, he said. His memo laid out minimum requirements for verifying and validating the information that agencies enter into FPDS.

“By ensuring FPDS data is accurate,” he said, “you will be in a better position to meet the requirements” of the 2006 transparency act.
 
BY Matthew WeigeltPaul Denett, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, offered several proposals for enhancing competition in federal contracting. Denett forwarded the proposals to the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council, which will decide whether to incorporate them into the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

In a memo issued June 1, Denett proposed:
  • Requiring agency competition advocates to perform annual reviews of how well their agencies plan and manage task orders worth more than $1 million.
  • Limiting the length of contracts awarded noncompetitively under urgent and compelling circumstances to one year, unless the agency chief acquisition officer makes an exception.
  • Listing all sole-source awards on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site, www.fedbizopps.gov.
  • Strengthening competition rules for multiple-award schedules by requiring agencies to solicit at least three bid proposals before making an award.
— Matthew Weigelt

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