GAO raps procurement data system

GAO letter to OMB

The only system in the federal government that provides information on contracting is hard to use and not up-to-date, the Government Accountability Office said in a letter written today.

The letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua Bolten details GAO's concerns and offers recommendations about the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FDPS-NG). Katherine Schinasi, GAO's managing director for acquisition and sourcing management, signed the letter.

The General Services Administration had historically maintained FPDS. In 2003, the agency awarded a contract to Global Computer Enterprises (GCE) to modernize and take over the system, which was renamed FPDS-NG. The contract called for a two-year transition period that ends in October. GCE began providing information to the public through FPDS-NG in December 2004.

Among GAO's main concerns:

* The Defense Department, the largest contracting entity in government, is still not submitting data to FPDS-NG electronically. GSA believes that about 90 percent of agencies with contract-writing systems have completed their connections to FPDS-NG, but DOD represents about 60 percent of contracting actions. Without the electronic connection, DOD data's entry into the system is delayed.

* Although agencies were instructed to review and correct their data before connecting to FPDS-NG, and in particular, to certify the accuracy and completeness of their fiscal 2004 data, GSA has not provided system users with information about the accuracy of the information, contributing to lower user confidence.

* The FPDS-NG Web site allows users to generate standard reports using templates or customized ad hoc reports using a tool, but even after attending GCE's training sessions on using both methods, GAO analysts "did not find either easy to use," Schinasi wrote. The analysts also ran into significant performance problems with the site, including system time-outs when trying to generate reports. In addition, the ad hoc tool does not allow users to save their custom report specifications, so they must be painstakingly rebuilt each time they're needed.

* The system could not provide information on interagency contracting, such as when one agency uses a governmentwide acquisition contract held by another agency. GSA officials told GAO that some such data was available, but GAO analysts could not get it.

GAO recommended that GSA:

* Work with DOD and any other agencies still not reporting electronically to make that connection as soon as possible.

* Develop a plan to improve ease of use and access to data.

* Determine whether the system can collect and report interagency contracting data.

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