SARA panel pushes for better procurement data system

As part of its overall focus on more transparency in government contracting, the Acquisition Advisory Panel is calling for a slew of changes to the way federal procurement data are gathered and processed.

The panel -- known as the SARA panel after the Services Acquisition Reform Act of 2003 that authorized it -- didn’t have procurement data on its original slate of things to look at, but it decided to tackle the issue as a result of its own attempts to obtain data.

Those efforts to get usable data from the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG), the only governmentwide system that tracks federal procurement spending, were mixed, the panel said in its recently released final report.

In its findings, the panel said competition data on orders under interagency contracts were unreliable and didn’t match the confidence of initial reports that indicated those contracts achieved high levels of competition.

The report also states that FPDS-NG’s usefulness was compromised by users entering data inaccurately, data on ordering trends not being readily available for analysis, the system’s reliance on voluntary funding contributions for its operation, and a lack of granularity necessary for the kinds of analyses needed for spending and strategic decisions.

As part of its recommendations the panel said the Office of Federal Procurement Policy should immediately correct the reporting rules for competition. It is “imperative that the data reflect the actual level of competition on the order, not on the master contract level,” it said.

It also recommended that Congress revise the OFPP Act to assign responsibility to agency heads for timely and accurate data reporting to the FPDS-NG or any successor system and that agencies be required to train their workforce to accurately report contract data.

OFPP also should devise ways of adding more data-reporting requirements that would allow for better strategic sourcing and market research within and across agencies, the panel said.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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