Editorial: A missed opportunity

GSA Administrator Lurita Doan's recent testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was a spectacle that amounted to very little.

It has been several weeks since Lurita Doan, the administrator of the General Services Administration, testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. In hindsight, the lingering question is: What did it all mean — and what does it mean for government procurement and good government?

Unfortunately, when all is said and done, it means very little. The spectacle that took place late last month was a missed opportunity.
The government procurement community faces serious issues — issues that need to be debated. But neither Doan nor the committee members used the session as an opportunity to address those issues and help the government take steps that would result in more effective, better-run organizations.

One example: Oversight.

An important issue in government procurement is the role of oversight, particularly the relationships among procurement officials, auditors, inspectors general and congressional overseers. Those relationships are strained — at best.

Nobody is suggesting that there should be no oversight. We are not. Most procurement executives appreciate an environment in which they can learn ways to improve how they do their work. And if there is waste, fraud and abuse, people should be prosecuted — as they have been.

But a perception among the procurement workforce is that just about any decision they make can be reviewed and re-reviewed — over and over again. Another perception among procurement employees is that mistakes are not tolerated. Those workers fear having their mistakes plastered on the front pages of newspapers and aired in congressional hearings. We don’t believe that is the desire of the overseers — lawmakers or IGs.

The Doan hearing could have presented an opportunity to have a debate about what the role of oversight should be, which procurement activities need reforming or how agencies should go about determining what government work is eligible for competition.

That discussion probably would not have made headlines in mainstream newspapers, but it would have started a conversation about important issues and moved us a step closer to more effective government operations, which we believe is everybody’s goal.

Unfortunately, on that issue and other important topics, the Doan hearing was a missed opportunity.

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