Interagency contracting no longer high risk

One of only two areas that GAO removed from its high-risk list, interagency contracting has improved considerably since 2005, officials say.

Gene Dodaro

OFPP, congressional oversight get credit for the government's improved interagency contracting, says GAO's Gene Dodaro.

Agency officials must be managing their interagency contracts better. The Government Accountability Office has removed the once-problematic area from its 2013 High Risk List.

In 2005, when interagency contracting was added to the list, it was rarely done well. Agencies were awarding contracts poorly and issuing task orders that were outside the scope of the initial contract. (In Iraq, the Defense Department ordered interrogation services through an IT contract.) Agencies struggled with competition questions, and the customer and service agencies often worked together without clear lines of accountability. But lawmakers pushed leaders to reform the Federal Acquisition Regulation and also require agencies to write up a business case before launching a new interagency contract.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy and congressional oversight deserve credit for the government's improved approach interagency contracting, Gene Dodaro, U.S. comptroller general, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Feb. 14.

He cited Congress' sustained oversight, which pays "enormous dividends," as one reason for success. In addition, agency officials have established more management controls for the governmentwide contracts and have set up a policy framework for new contracts. And because market research and pricing are important to yield savings. agencies have moved to gather more data on contract spending.

The Office of Management and Budget "has made improvements to its Interagency Contract Directory, a searchable online database of indefinite-delivery vehicles available for interagency use," according to the new report.

OFPP Administrator Joe Jordan expressed gratitude for the credit. “I appreciate GAO’s recognition of the tremendous work that has been done to improve the utilization of interagency contracting as a money-saving tool for agencies," he said. "When done right, agencies working together to award and manage a single vehicle instead of many agency-specific contracts can provide tremendous value to their missions and the taxpayer."

Administration officials are moving ahead with a Prices Paid Portal, Danny Werfel, federal controller at the Office of Management and Budget, said at the 2013 National Leadership Conference in Washington, DC, Feb. 13. The administration's goal is to track how much agencies are paying for similar items.

"It is exactly what it sounds like. It's a data warehouse for federal agencies to understand what we're paying for stuff and what our colleagues are paying across government," he said.

The CFO community is interested in understanding prices and what agencies have decided was fair and reasonable to pay for a product or service, Werfel said. Agencies are paying a variance of prices for the same items, and it is not easily explained, other than to say officials are not doing enough in market research or leveraging the government's buying power.

Now the financial community wants to partner with the acquisition workforce to study pricing trends, Werfel said. He is considering ways to get the portal launched with a lot of enthusiasm behind it.

His goal: "In 10 years from now, people will say, 'Wow, there existed a time when this portal didn't exist.'"

NEXT STORY: OASIS creates thirst for answers

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