DOD troubles reshape GovWorks
DOD restriction forced acquisition agency to evaluate how it operates, follows rules
- By Matthew Weigelt
- Apr 18, 2008
Nearly a year ago, John Nyce recognized a thin silver lining in a hard-hitting restriction placed by the Defense Department on GovWorks, the assisted acquisition services agency run by the Interior Department. The restrictions gave the agency an opportunity to reinvent itself.
Nyce now sees GovWorks, recently renamed Acquisition Services Directorate, as a stronger purchasing outfit that complies with DOD purchasing regulations and focuses on its primary areas of acquisition expertise.
“We have re-evaluated who we are and what we’ll do in the future,” said Nyce, the agency’s associate director. “And we’re not going to be everything to everybody.”
In May 2007, DOD officials slapped a $100,000 spending cap on GovWorks because DOD’s inspector general found that the services agency had not followed DOD purchasing policies. In fiscal 2005, contracting officials at GovWorks failed to adequately document that the prices DOD paid for goods and services were fair and reasonable.
GovWorks officials also used expired funds in violation of DOD’s bona fide needs rule, which prompted DOD to issue the restriction. In a separate report released in March of this year, Claude Kicklighter, DOD’s IG, documented similar problems involving expired funds and inappropriate competitions for the department’s contracts. Those problems occurred in fiscal 2006 and 2007.
However, in a third audit, auditors found the acquisition agency had made substantial improvements in meeting DOD procurement regulations, Kicklighter wrote.
In March, Shay Assad, DOD director of Defense procurement, acquisition policy and strategic sourcing, lifted the restriction on GovWorks. He cited improvements in the agency’s operations, including the proper use of the department’s funding.
“I have determined that it is necessary and in the interest of the Department of Defense to use” the directorate’s services, Assad wrote.
During the nine-month restriction, business dropped by 30 percent.
Nyce said agency officials are checking funding documents monthly, particularly purchases using money from the previous year, to make sure purchases are tied to a bona fide need.
Many people are watching the agency’s work. Nyce said a team of officials is checking departments’ funding certifications. A contracting officer is reviewing the specificity of the transaction requirements and officials from other offices are doing additional quality checks. Nyce said he created a new position to make sure the agency stays on course.
DOD’s restriction forced the directorate to reconsider what’s important as it regains its footing and tries to win back customers. In the past, the agency would have tried to buy anything a department wanted, but Nyce said that philosophy has changed.
“In the future, we are going to concentrate on what we feel are our core competencies,” he said. The directorate knows how to buy information technology, supplies and equipment, and its experts can award research and development contracts.
“We are not in the business to buy airplanes and ships,” for example, Nyce added.
Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.