The Circuit

Crisis Management

We understand that the troubled Andersen accounting firm has already completed its review of the FBI's organization and operations, including its antiquated computer systems, under a $790,000 contract awarded last year.

And it's a good thing, too, because the General Services Administration is reviewing every federal contract held by Andersen in the wake of disclosures that some of the firm's employees shredded documents in connection with the collapse of Enron, which has filed for the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

The Enron case is under investigation by Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Justice and Labor departments. But a Justice spokesman recently said that the Andersen review of the FBI, ordered by Attorney General John Ashcroft, was completed last fall. The details of that study will be folded into a larger report on the FBI's policies and practices for information technology, personnel, crisis management and other issues. Out in the real world, it looks as if Andersen could use a little crisis management itself.

Purchase Card Abuse

Despite recent reports about the use of government credit cards to buy Coach bags and other unauthorized items, federal managers will continue to use them because the cards help meet employees' needs in an era of dwindling human resources, according to David Shea, chief of the Procurement Policy Division in the Agriculture Department's procurement office.

The federal government spent almost $14 billion in fiscal 2001 with the cards — known as purchase cards — and earned rebates from the issuing banks in the process, Shea said, speaking at E-Gov's conference on electronic procurement last week in Washington, D.C. "We're saving taxpayers millions of dollars with these cards. But since taxpayer funds are involved, our sensitivity must be higher," Shea said. "We need to be very concerned about how these cards are used."

Part of that heightened sensitivity stems from a General Accounting Office report released in July 2001 that found that too many people at two Navy centers in San Diego had the cards, making it difficult to institute proper controls over purchases.

Maintaining control involves straightforward approaches, Shea said, such as training cardholders how to use the cards before — not after — they are issued and reviewing transactions on a regular basis.

Calling All Couch Potatoes

At least two federal agencies are seeking ways to make travel for their employees more efficient and less costly. The Department of Veterans Affairs is conducting a market research effort to find the best electronic travel solution that would use state-of-the-art technology.

Over at the Treasury Department, officials are looking at a vastly larger proj.ect — outsourcing travel service to a commercial source that could handle about 540,000 trips a year. Treasury officials want a service that would give their travelers direct access to an online commercial reservation system using secure and encrypted services. And to make it even easier, Treasury officials hope to equip traveling employees with Web-enabled personal digital assistants to allow them to make their own travel plans.

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