A-76 changes loom despite concerns

The Office of Management and Budget did not enact its proposed changes to Circular A-76 on Jan. 1, as some federal agencies had feared. The reprieve, however, is only temporary. The agency intends to implement the revisions "early this year," an OMB official said.

Some agencies, however, have expressed reservations about some of the suggested measures. OMB has received about 675 comments about the proposed revisions, which are intended to increase competition between the public and private sectors in providing government services.

The proposal came about in response to industry concerns that existing rules make it too easy for agencies to keep work in-house rather than putting it out for bids. Now agency officials fear the opposite may happen. The proposal requires them to justify their decisions to close certain activities to competitive bids.

The measure is "overly burdensome [and] unnecessary and opens for debate the decisions of the head of the agency," wrote Paul Cote, assistant attorney general for administration with the Justice Department.

Agencies also object to a rigid 12-month time limit for completing the bid award process, with OMB stepping in directly if that deadline isn't met. Agencies deserve more flexibility and autonomy, wrote Lynn Scarlett, assistant secretary of policy, management and budget at the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation in Denver.

"We recommend target dates with monitoring and an explanation to the [agency's procurement] official when time frames cannot be met," Scarlett wrote.

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