GSA IG: Contracting officers not using e-forms

GSA IG audit report (.pdf)

Vendors continue to use paper rather than electronic forms to submit contract offers and make modifications, as interviews with contracting officers reveal a lack of buy-in and weak incentives to go digital, according to a March 6 inspector general report.

Growth in the General Services Administration’s eOffer and eMod programs, Web applications for contract proposal and modification processes, has been below expectations, despite slight annual increases, a GSA Inspector General Office audit found.

Electronically submitted offers comprise on average only 9 percent of all schedule offers received since the Web application came online in May 2004. The percentage is based on the five schedules vendors can use to submit an electronic offer. EMod makes up only 4.5 percent of all modifications received over the same period, despite being available on all schedules, the March 6 IG report states.

The two applications were launched in mid-2004 and allow companies to electronically prepare, submit and modify contract proposals for select multiple-award schedules. They are a paperless means to streamline GSA’s processes and support the President’s Management Agenda through eBusiness technologies.

The auditors found that few GSA contracting professionals guide vendors to eOffer's and eMod’s services. The electronic forms are more difficult to use than the paper ones. The paper forms have clearly marked tabs, while the e-forms generate confusing links for each document uploaded. Also, it takes longer to award electronically submitted proposals partly because eOffer does not ask for all the information necessary to consider a proposal. Contracting officers have to follow up with the company to get that information. That leaves the programs lackluster, despite the agency’s $10 million investment in them in the past three years.

“Rates remain low due to lack of acceptance by contracting professionals and weak incentives to encourage vendors to submit electronic offers and modifications,” the report states.

The contracting officers told the IG auditors that they could have prevented some of the eOffer’s and eMod’s shortcomings if they had been consulted earlier in the development stages.

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