GAO: Agencies question usefulness of contract inventories

Some agency officials fear their in-depth inventories of service contracts will not be very useful, according to a new letter from the Government Accountability Office, released May 27.

A service contract inventory aims to help an agency understand how they are using contracted services to support operations and whether the agencies are using contractors’ skills appropriately.

GAO wrote that officials had mixed opinions about cataloging the service contracts. For instance, officials at the Veterans Affairs Department had doubts about the helpfulness of the inventory. They have concerns that the VA will be unable to implement any decisions based on it due to uncertainty over having enough people to do the work as well as funding.

Energy Department officials also said they foresee budgetary problems. If they planned to restructure their contracted activities, they told GAO, the department would need more money to have more federal employees carrying out the department’s work.

Other officials said that while they were still early in their analysis of the inventories, they were finding contracts that should have been left to agency employees rather than outsourced, GAO wrote.

Overall though, agencies are doing better than predicted in their inventory reviews. Seven of nine agencies have started their analyses as of April. Earlier in the year, agency officials were unsure if they could finish their analyses by June, GAO wrote.

In the fiscal 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Congress required civilian agencies to annually submit to the Office of Management and Budget an inventory of service contracts.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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