Procurement

GAO pushes new interagency contracting rules

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The time has come to implement a new policy framework for interagency contracts. (Stock image)

Government overseers have told the Defense Department and General Services Administration to start using new interagency acquisition policy rules -- a move one senator says could reduce these contracts' risk to the government.

A federal policy framework is now in place to deal with the risks that come with interagency contracting efforts, William Woods, director of acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office, wrote in a Jan. 29 letter to several lawmakers. Now officials must institute the policies "in order for agencies to demonstrate whether the new policies established to address interagency contracting deficiencies produce the desired results."

In 2010, officials revised the Federal Acquisition Regulation to require agencies to decide whether an assisted acquisition is the best approach for meeting requirements and saving money. The customer agency and the agency providing the service also must sign an agreement that lays out the terms and conditions of the procurement.

Yet GSA officials have not updated the ordering guides for all its interagency contract vehicles to require customers to make the "best approach" determination. In addition, Defense officials have not updated their own acquisition regulations to reflect this similar requirement.

DOD and GSA officials replied to GAO that they are on track to complete their work.

Richard Ginman, director of defense procurement and acquisition policy at DOD, released a memo Jan. 2 that sets up a small team to review DOD's interagency contracting policies. He expects the team to start early this year and meet regularly until September.

Dan Tangherlini, GSA's acting administrator, said his agency is on it too. He expects order guides to be changed by March 31.

"Expedient action is necessary to remedy the current situation, and the agency will make the appropriate updates," Tangherlini wrote.

While the acting chief wants changes quickly, GSA has been slow. In April 2011, officials told their offices to require of customer agencies best procurement approach determinations. Yet, more than a year later, the offices that are responsible for many of GSA’s largest small-business governmentwide acquisition contracts have not yet changed their ordering guides.

Even so, the interagency contracting policy framework, based in part on legislation and congressional oversight as well as the advances by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, is beginning to result in better contracting outcomes, said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). Agencies now must develop business cases to support their use of this type of contracting vehicle and they each must define roles and responsibilities interagency agreements to strengthen accountability.

Collins added that federal agencies spend tens of billions of dollars annually through interagency contract vehicles, but the management of interagency contracts has been on GAO’s high-risk list since 2005.

"I am hopeful that the progress made will result in the GAO deciding to drop the management of interagency contracting from its high-risk list," she said.

About the Author

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

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