Letters to the Editor
The Coalition for Government Procurement disagrees with Federal Computer Week that random audits should be implemented to check the accuracy of contractor reporting of GSA schedule sales [FCW May 19]. We feel that this position is based on a lack of understanding of current activities in the schedules area and on information reported by FCW that is of itself incomplete.
The position taken in your May 19 editorial seems to be largely based on information published in the May 12 FCW ["Soaring GSA sales data rife with errors"]. This article purported to show broad discrepancies between contractor-reported sales information and that held by GSA and it led the reader to believe that serious problems exist in the area of schedule sales reporting.
A close review of information FCW relied upon to make this point however does not substantiate such a contention. Of the top four contractors listed sales for the "vendor figure" column are missing for two companies. A third number is an FCW "estimate." The only number among the top four in the vendor column that apparently was independently provided differs from the GSA figure by only 2.5 percent. This is hardly a difference that justifies a headline stating that GSA sales data are "rife" with errors.
The position that random audits should be conducted also fails to take into account current activities already under way at GSA to ensure accurate reporting.
Perhaps most significant among these is a program under way at the Federal Supply Service's Office of Contract Management. This office is undertaking a systematic review of contractor sales tracking and reporting mechanisms. These reviews are conducted in a business partnership environment with contractors. They are not audits but rather a cooperative nonconfrontational effort to ensure that government sales are identified and reported accurately. All schedule contractors will be visited under this plan.
By recommending broad-based audits on top of such reviews FCW is promoting a needlessly duplicative effort and favoring an adversarial approach when one of cooperation will suffice in most cases. Additionally it should be noted that the Coalition for Government Procurement and GSA are working on ways to have schedule sales reported electronically. Such a procedure will reduce time and paperwork and result in more accurate reporting. This would be a boon to both GSA and contractors.
It is the Coalition's position that such cooperation between GSA and industry will ensure accurate reporting of schedule sales without the need for random audits. It is our hope that FCW will reassess its position and join us in supporting cooperation and mutual trust over auditing and confrontation.
Paul J. CaggianoPresident Coalition for Government Procurement
Editor's reply: Mr. Caggiano's letter lumps together a news story and an editorial and we believe it is important to distinguish between fact and opinion. The news story stated there were discrepancies between what vendors reported as GSA sales and what GSA numbers indicated. We believe that statement is accurate.
Since the story was published on May 12 the No. 2 vendor GTSI has reported its schedule sales for the first half of fiscal 1997 to be $117 million. GSA reported those sales to be $149.1 million—a $32 million difference. The estimate of Gateway sales was based not on a wild guess by a reporter but on numbers we believed to be accurate but which we agreed not to source. Missing entirely from GSA's top 10 were EDS at $24.4 million and BTG at $29.95 million. If we assume IBM's figure is accurate we find a total discrepancy between GSA and the top 10 vendor figures of more than $150 million.
The prime area of disagreement seems to be over the use of the word "audit" in the editorial. We believe GSA needs some standard reporting form a method for some basic accuracy testing and a way to reconcile differences. We believe GSA should stand behind the accuracy of the numbers it provides. There will be no calls for audits if GSA achieves that goal.