OFPP tracks interagency contracts

Feds want to know how the practice is working for everyone

OMB Memo: Data Collection on Interagency and Agency-Wide Contracting

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Agency officials are completing a survey that the Office of Federal Procurement Policy released in February to learn how agencies use interagency contracting.

Broadly defined as an agency conducting an acquisition on behalf of another agency, interagency contracting is not well-understood. OFPP launched an initiative to study the practice in late 2005. Survey responses are due March 31.

“Interagency contracting requires increased management attention to achieve the greatest value possible,” Robert Burton, associate OFPP administrator, wrote in a Feb. 24 memo accompanying the survey.

In the months between the November 2005 announcement of the initiative and the February memo, Burton said Congress imposed additional requirements related to the use of such contracts in the fiscal 2006 Defense Authorization Act. The Acquisition Advisory Panel also recommended that the Office of Management and Budget — OFPP’s parent organization — review and refine the governance process.

Many federal employees, defying the stereotype of being staid and working by the book, can be entrepreneurial in finding creative ways to conduct acquisitions, said Alan Balutis, president and chief executive officer of government strategies at Input. The problem is that interagency contracting might not always follow the rules. That is not a conclusion that can be deduced from the available evidence but a question that needs to be explored, he added.

Procurement attorney David Nadler, a partner in the law firm of Dickstein Shapiro Morin and Oshinsky, said the General Services Administration typically is regarded as the federal government’s chief repository of acquisition expertise, but other agencies can do a fine job, too.

“There are a lot of really good acquisition shops, and there are some not-so-good acquisition shops,” said Nadler, who is also a Federal Computer Week columnist. “The military activities I have found do a very good job. With the civilian agencies, it is more uneven.”

But Jonathan Aronie, a partner in the government contracts group of Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton and a Federal Computer Week columnist, took a different view.

“For the most part, it’s inefficient to have multiple agencies setting themselves up as federalwide procurement shops,” he said. “It seems to me to make the most sense to take advantage of the expertise we’ve already built up in GSA.”

Alan Chvotkin, senior vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council, said governmentwide interagency contracts make sense. “They take advantage of the expertise of agencies, they avoid duplication of effort, they provide some economies and efficiencies for agencies, and they add elements of traceability and accountability,” he said.

Some interagency contracts are only enterprisewide, meaning they are intended for use within one agency, but sometimes other agencies might use them. Such contracts don’t have to be approved by OMB as governmentwide acquisition contracts do, he said.

Ultimately, Chovtkin said, OMB could impose standards on interagency contracts of all types. That could be a good thing, he added, if standards lead to more efficient practices.

“The only thing that’s disappointing is that it took them so long,” he said.

What OFPP wants to knowThe Office of Federal Procurement Policy is seeking information on the use of interagency contracting. By March 31, agencies are supposed to complete a survey that asks for:

  • The number of interagency contracts now in operation, their scope, their primary users and the rationale for their existence.

  • The number of interagency acquisitions conducted on each agency’s behalf by other agencies.

  • The number of agencywide contracts that exist to meet common needs that could instead be satisfied through an existing interagency contract.
  • Source: Office of Federal Procurement Policy

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