Plans afoot to better track agency purchasing
- By Diane Frank
- Nov 12, 2000
Congress and the Clinton administration are moving forward with initiatives
to improve federal agencies' ability to track what they buy, how much they
pay and where the products or services are used.
Many agencies, with help from the General Services Administration and
industry, are trying to develop such tracking systems. But the real need
is to track the entire procurement process, from determination of need to
delivery of goods and services to payment, agency officials said. And there
are new requirements that need to be tracked, such as the goals for small,
small disadvantaged and woman-owned businesses.
"It's still pretty hard to tell what we got and whether we paid for
it once, twice or not at all," said David Drabkin, the new deputy associate
administrator for acquisition policy at GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy.
Now Congress has taken a direct step toward getting involved. The fiscal
2001 Defense Authorization Act signed by President Clinton late last month
included a requirement for a new process to track, manage and report information
The Defense Department already has tracking systems in place, but General
Accounting Office and inspector general reviews have found those systems
lacking, said Matthew Blum, deputy associate administrator for the Office
of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget.
The new act requires that the Defense Department collect information
on procurements ranging from the type of products or services purchased
to the type of pricing used. It also requires that DOD create an annual
report on the information gathered and deliver it to Congress by March 15
each year, Blum said.
Congress is not alone in eyeing the procurement-tracking problem. The
many agency efforts to install improved tracking systems will be a high-priority
issue in the next administration because of the volume of contracting activities
occurring throughout the government, Blum said.
The issue will likely be prominent in an improvement-planning document
OFPP plans to submit to Congress next month based on a yearlong review
of the contracting environment.
On one key initiative, OMB now joins with GSA and the Procurement Executive
Council to redesign the Federal Procurement Data System, which is run by
GSA and tracks every procurement action across government. But the 20-year-old
system does not collect all of the information relevant to today's contracting
environment, and GSA is now gathering information from industry and agencies
on needed changes.
When the new system is deployed, it will make a huge difference in the
government's understanding of what it buys, Drabkin said, since it will
be designed to track every procurement action in every agency instead of
only those that existed when the system was first fielded.