GSA online procurement rapped

"GSA Online Procurement Programs Lack Documentation and Reliability Testing"

The General Accounting Office on Jan. 15 released a letter to General Services Administration head Stephen Perry criticizing the agency's lack of controls on its governmentwide online procurement systems.

In a 2001 review of small business participation in federal online procurement programs, GAO discovered several errors and weaknesses in GSA Advantage and the Information Technology Solutions Shop (ITSS).

The problems result in unreliable data about agencies' procurement and could affect GSA's ability to continue operating the systems after a disaster or emergency, David Cooper, director of acquisition and sourcing management at GAO, wrote in the letter dated Dec. 21, 2001.

During the governmentwide review, GAO found significant errors in the data available from GSA Advantage, an online catalog of all the Federal Supply Service's products and services, and ITSS, the Federal Technology Service's online contracting system. Among the problems:

* Advantage reported $32.2 million worth of sales that were in fact "test orders" used to train users.

* ITSS used an incorrect formula to calculate total sales, overstating the total by $800 million.

GSA also had no documentation for the two systems that would ensure that data is reliably collected by the system and would provide a basis for reconstitution following a disruption or emergency.

According to the systems' managers, there is no documentation because Advantage and ITSS "evolved over many years in a piecemeal fashion," Cooper wrote.

Unless steps are taken to follow GAO recommendations — which include putting in place data entry controls and fully documenting the systems — this will magnify the problems, Cooper wrote.

GSA officials told the review team that although the agency is re-engineering both systems, they are looking at how to address the GAO recommendations.

During fiscal 2000, Advantage handled almost $125,000 in transactions, and ITSS processed more than $2.2 million. The sales going through these systems are expected to increase greatly, because in fiscal 2001 FSS required all vendors to make their products and services available on Advantage, and the Bush administration has directed agencies to expand their use of online procurement in fiscal 2002.

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