GSA looks to corral former customers

Audit results suggest that bad contracting practices might be a thing of the past. Now GSA's challenge is to get the word out.

Good news hasn't come very often to the embattled General Services Administration in recent years. So when some positive attention does come its way, GSA officials are eager to wave the results in front of its old go-it-alone customers — if only to show them that the agency has left its bad habits in the past.

Auditors from the Defense Department and GSA have been examining GSA’s books, and agency officials are confident the outcome will reveal that GSA can toe the regulatory line, said Ed O’Hare, new assistant commissioner for integrated technology services at GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service.

“We are confident we made the changes we needed to make, and we’ll fly through,” he said in a speech delivered in May.

Meanwhile, his marketing people are gathering a list of multiagency contracts and indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts that other agencies launched around the same time GSA was found to be assisting the Defense Department with illegal purchases. O’Hare is targeting his message of repentance to the officers in the agencies whose own IDIQs are about to expire. The contracts often last for five to 10 years.

He wants to convince those agencies that GSA is ready to take over the other IDIQs, relieving other agencies of the maintenance burdens that come with running a large contracting program.

His question is simply: “Do you really want to do this again?”

For added emphasis, O’Hare also intends to highlight GSA’s inexpensive usage fees. Agencies pay a 0.75 percent service fee to use the Alliant GWAC, and GSA is capping that fee at $150,000 a year.

“I defy anyone to do a GWAC less expensively than that,” O’Hare said.

GSA’s ‘come to Jesus’ moment

Although GSA says it has moved past the scandal that rocked it five years ago, the memories — and history — linger. On Jan. 8, 2004, the GSA inspector general reported a pervasive problem of improper task orders and contract awards by the agency’s client support centers (CSCs), which served DOD. The IG found that some GSA employees were using the Information Technology Fund for purchases of goods and services that were well outside the fund’s scope. As a result, DOD officials banned use of GSA for major purchases.

The list of GSA’s sins grew long, according to the IG: improper sole-source awards, allowing work outside the scope of contracts, and inappropriately using time-and-materials task orders. Although the IT fund is authorized only for acquiring IT equipment, software and related services, investigators found that CSCs were dipping into it to pay for a wide variety of inappropriate things, such as marine barriers, pathogen detection devices, and construction of classrooms and office buildings.

The GSA IG attributed the problems to a culture that emphasized revenue growth instead of adhering to proper procurement procedures.

“I think every organization has to have a ‘come to Jesus’ moment,” said David Drabkin, GSA’s chief acquisition officer. That IG report was GSA’s moment.

Although the problems applied only to one small piece of GSA’s operation, the public perception was that the agency was more broadly compromised. “One part of your business does badly, and it hurts everybody,” Drabkin said.

DOD customers were frustrated with GSA and showed it in 2004 and 2005. Sales in the multiple-award schedules program slowed, but the program kept GSA from losing money year over year, Drabkin said.

But O’Hare and Drabkin said the agency has reorganized and revamped its operations. GSA is a new place compared to several years ago. And with the problems solved, GSA is ready to work. This latest round of audits, as required by the fiscal 2007 National Defense Authorization Act, should close the file on GSA as a poor broker of procurement dollars, O’Hare said.

Good news

Kevin Carroll, former program executive officer for the Army’s enterprise information systems who was in charge of the Information Technology Enabled Services-2S contract, said the new audit results can only help GSA rebuild its image and agencies’ trust in it.

“They’re showing responsibility,” said Carroll, president of the Kevin Carroll Group. But, he said, GSA also must continue to re-establish and develop its business relationship with DOD. Just showing good audit results won’t be enough.

Greg Rothwell, former chief procurement officer at the Homeland Security Department and president of Everymay Consulting Group, said there’s a deeper issue that might be too tough for GSA to surmount with a good audit: Agencies have become accustomed to doing their own contracting, and they aren’t likely to dump their contracts just to return to GSA.

Martha Johnson, President Barack Obama's nominee to be GSA administrator, said the agency has suffered its decline largely because of new freedom for agencies. Legislative changes in the 1990s, such as the Clinger-Cohen Act, removed many of the rules that required agencies to use GSA. It’s now one option among many.

“If you own it, you can control it,” said Rothwell, who helped to launch DHS’ Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge Solutions (EAGLE) contract and the Internal Revenue Service’s first two iterations of the Total Information Processing Support Services (TIPSS) contracts. “If you can’t control it, it can’t be as responsive to the agency’s mission.”

Faster, better, cheaper

The reality of control and GSA’s rough times forced it to cater to its customers and listen to them, experts say. For instance, GSA is letting agencies use contracts other than its own when GSA assists a customer agency.

GSA is scrambling to get started on launching ways for agencies to get on board with the Obama administration’s emphasis on cloud computing. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra and Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra are advancing the administration’s policy, while GSA’s role could be to make it easy for agencies to use cloud computing services.

“We see the administration’s requirements, we respond by initiating some kind of contract action and make it fast and easy for government agencies to use,” O’Hare said.

He even wants to make cloud computing services available to agencies using a credit card, especially when they’re in a pinch for time.

“You don’t have to go to the CIO, you don’t have to go plan it, you don’t have to go buy servers or digital maps or do a  [certification and accreditation], he said. O'Hare envisions an agency employee logging on to a Web site, answering a few questions, and “boom, check out, you got it.”

O’Hare’s Office of Integrated Technology Services has awarded all of its major contracts, such as Alliant and Networx, and they’re ready for business. "I’ve got to get out there and talk to people and try to convince them we’ve already got it,” he said.

And he wants to make GSA work “faster, better and cheaper” than other agencies can offer. “My job is to make it work,” he said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.