OFPP gets ready to move beyond Safavian

Nominee Denett promises higher visibility, more accountability, and better prices

On the same day David Safavian, the former Office of Federal Procurement Policy chief, was convicted on felony charges of lying to investigators and obstructing justice, the White House’s nominee to lead the office Safavian once ran said he will make government contracting more transparent and accountable.

Paul Denett told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that, if confirmed, he will be vigilant in assuring that the government gets the best prices on services it procures, stating that right now, the government is not always getting the best deal.

“There is vast room for improvement,” Denett said.

The White House nominated Denett in April to replace Safavian, who resigned from his post in September 2005—days before he was arrested on charges of making false statements under oath and obstructing a federal investigation tied to his connections with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramhoff. The charges stem from Safavian’s time as chief of staff at the General Services Administration. He was found guilty June 20 on four of five counts and faces up to 20 years in prison.

Robert Burton, deputy OFPP administrator, has been serving as acting OFPP administrator since Safavian stepped down.

At his nomination hearing, Denett was peppered by committee chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security, on ways to bring more transparency and competition to government contracting.

Coburn in particular pushed for developing an online database containing information on all government contracts. “We have to set up a system so we can truly measure performance,” he said. “We’re running out of money.”

Denett agreed that the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation, a database of information about federal procurement contracts, is in need of an overhaul, especially after the Government Accountability Office last year found that the system is rife with inaccurate data.

He said he would work with GAO to fix the problems.

“I think we can do a better job of contracting, and if we get increased competition, we’d get better prices,” he said. “Strategic sourcing would improve buys for the government.”

Denett said he supported the Office of Management and Budget’s policy on competitive sourcing, but that he was against setting arbitrary goals for the outcome of the competitions.

Also, Denett promised big steps in educating the acquisition workforce.

After the hearing, Collins could not estimate when Denett’s nomination would come to the committee for a vote but said that she did not expect any controversy.

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