GAO: Feds must get more competitive bids

Agencies do not always get enough bidders before awarding tasks under multiple award contracts, according to a new General Accounting Office report.

Earlier GAO reviews of the multiple-award schedule system found that some agencies were not attaining the level of competition that Congress had intended, the report says. Congress had additional guidance published in the Federal Acquisition Regulations and asked GAO to review agency compliance.

The new report found four cases out of 26 were not using the fair opportunity process without adequate justification. The process is intended to ensure that the government is getting the best value through greater competition. In addition, GAO officials found four statements of work for information technology service orders that were defined too broadly.

Only three of 22 service orders met the criteria for being performance-based contracts.

GAO recommended that the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services review the training they provide for acquisition personnel on the fair opportunity process. GAO also recommended that the Office of Management and Budget clarify the responsibilities of staff members regarding capital planning for IT products and services.

VA officials generally agreed with the report, but HHS officials said they were disappointed that congressional auditors recommended training. "It is our position that we provide adequate training," HHS officials said in a response. HHS officials also objected to GAO's characterization of two HHS procurements.

The General Services Administration, responding as a member of the Federal Acquisition Council with OMB, said the council is working on updated educational and training materials.

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