DOD IG finds trouble with GSA buys

“DOD Purchases Made Through the General Services Administration”

Contracting officials have wasted money and violated many acquisition regulations when making Defense Department technology purchases through the General Services Administration, according to a study by the DOD Inspector General.

During the last five years, between $1 billion and $2 billion in military funds expired or otherwise became unavailable to support operations because GSA contracting officers and DOD managers mismanaged money or did not adequately plan acquisitions, according to “DOD Purchases Made Through the General Services Administration,” which was released July 29.

DOD IG officials reviewed 75 purchases funded by 144 military interdepartmental purchase requests worth about $406 million that occurred primarily in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2004. They found that 74 lacked the necessary interagency agreements, 68 did not have proper acquisition planning, 44 were not supported by adequate auditing and 38 purchases were funded improperly.

In July 2004, DOD and GSA officials launched “Get It Right,” a campaign to improve training and awareness of GSA personnel in regional offices on the importance of following procurement rules. That came after a series of internal probes uncovered examples of misuse of contracts in the regional locations.

Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, said the July 29 IG report is not as telling as a round of new audits that will be conducted in the fall. Those audits are mandated by the Defense Authorization legislation passed last year, he said.

“That will be determinative,” he said. “Anybody who is not [rated] green by then, DOD basically won’t be able to use. What’s new today is that there are controls, but they were put into place relatively recently.”

DOD sent about 24,000 purchase requests to GSA last year, which represented more than 85 percent of the business contracted by the agency’s client support centers. GSA’s Federal Technology Service received about $8.5 billion for the Network Services Program, the client support centers and other miscellaneous programs to purchase information technology equipment and services, according to the report.

The DOD IG recommended that DOD take eight steps to fix the problems. They included requiring that DOD’s top acquisition official establish policy so that qualified DOD contracting officers review all purchases on non-DOD contracts prior to leaving the department and that the DOD comptroller publish guidance to all department agencies on funding and auditing of non-DOD contracts.

DOD officials disagreed with three of the recommendations including “that a contracting officer determine whether it is in the best interest of the DOD to use interagency support.” They said they recently developed policy allowing department agencies to determine who evaluates the various purchase options.

“We’ve been talking about Get It Right for a long time, but we’ve had Get It Right in place for only about 10 months,” Allen said.

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