NASA broke procurement promise to GAO, senator says

NASA needs to account for misleading the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on a pledge to review contracting irregularities after having a bid protest dismissed in 2005, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a letter to the space agency.

In the letter sent April 5, Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said NASA made specific commitments to GAO as part of its response to a bid protest. The commitments led GAO to dismiss the protest. However, a review by NASA’s inspector general found that agency did not follow through on its promises, Grassley said.

“NASA needs to ensure that basic procurement principles are followed,” Grassley said in a statement. The agency also needs to update GAO following a protest’s dismissal so the congressional audit agency takes NASA’s commitments seriously, he said.

Parametric Technology won a contract for $5.2 million in September 2005 for mechanical computer-aided design (MCAD) and data management software licenses at multiple NASA centers. Two vendors protested, saying the agency improperly conducted the acquisition by not complying with competition requirements, according to Grassley's letter.

NASA found inconsistencies, but said it would recompete the contract and review its procedures. Based on that, GAO dismissed the protestm but Grassley said NASA failed to recompete the contract.

“It appears NASA did not begin the agencywide review of requirements for MCAD software, as it told GAO it would after the dismissal of the bid protest,” the senator wrote. Instead, NASA officials drafted a different document in February 2006 allowing the agency to avoid another open competition.

Grassley wrote that NASA made misleading statements to GAO, resulting in a dismissed procurement protest. It also appears that NASA changed course shortly after GAO's dismissal, according to the letter.

For further investigation, Grassley asked NASA for details about its actions and what contracting irregularities it found in the 2005 procurement. He also asked  about other inconsistencies and bid protests since 2001. In addition, Grassley asked for a list of current or ongoing procurements.

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