Interagency contracts need parameters, officials say

There are 253 interagency contracts governmentwide, according to a recent agency survey, and that number concerns officials who believe these expanding contract types need parameters.

The total breaks down to 200 agencywide contracts, 41 multiagency contracts and 12 governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs). The General Services Administration owns six of the GWACs, said Paul Denett, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, in a Dec. 5 speech at the Government Contract Management Conference hosted by the National Contract Management Association.

Denett said the existence of 12 GWACs is unnecessary, but he quickly added he was not announcing whether he would approve the next version of NASA’s Scientific and Electronic Workforce Procurement GWAC. His decision on SEWP IV should come soon, however, he said.

Broadly defined as an agency conducting an acquisition on another agency’s behalf, interagency contracting is not well understood.

In 2005, OFPP asked agencies about their use of interagency contracting. Agencies should have completed a survey by March 31 on interagency contracts now in operation, their scope, their primary users and the rationale for why they exist. OFPP wanted numbers on how many were conducted on each agency’s behalf by other agencies. To avoid duplication, officials also wanted to know how many agencywide contracts meet common needs available through existing contracts.

“When used properly, they’re great vehicles," Denett said about interagency contracts. "We just have to guard [so] we don’t misuse them."

Forty-one multiagency contracts and 12 GWACs are not a large amount, said Robert Burton, deputy administrator of OFPP, during a panel discussion on the contracts. From a governmentwide perspective, the 200 agencywide contracts concern officials because they most likely duplicate the 53. Copying other contracts undercuts strategic sourcing, said Burton, who questioned the 200 contracts’ usefuless.

Burton said a governance structure is necessary to check the benefits of multiagency contracts. Officials also need to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the customer agency and the agency managing the contract. He said guidance would come in early 2007. Finally, Burton said interagency contracts must be used properly within scope of the contract. The most famous abuse was tied to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, he said.

The 253 contracts are based on professional and technical services and information technology, Denett said.

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