IG: Contract data late, incorrect

IG report on procurement data (.pdf)

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As the government’s procurement chief pushes contracting officers to enter acquisition information directly and immediately into a major database, a March 30 report finds that agencies did not do so with data from the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster.

The General Services Administration’s Office of Inspector General audited the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG) and found inaccurate and untimely information.

For example, Federal Emergency Management Agency contracting records show that as of Oct. 21, 2005, FEMA had awarded $3.7 billion in contracts to support the federal response to Katrina. However, according to FPDS-NG, on Oct. 24, 2005, the data showed only $608 million for the entire federal government.

Almost a year later, on Sept. 29, 2006, FPDS-NG showed the total amount of contracts all agencies awarded in response to the hurricane was $2.75 billion. But by Feb. 15, FPDS-NG reported $15.4 billion in federal contracts for the effort.

This $12.65 billion increase represents a five-fold increase in a five-month period, the report states.

The audit linked the problem to data that was entered manually instead of downloaded directly to FPDS-NG.

For example, as of Dec. 30, 2005, GSA was reporting $578 million in contract awards in response to Katrina. However, at the time, GSA was reporting more than $1 billion in awards based on procurement tracking logs compiled manually. There also were inaccuracies in some of the GSA actual contract data. On one contract, GSA never entered a $30 million modification into the system, while a $1.7 million contract was entered three times, the report states.

“Overall, data reliability is dependent on agencies having a vested interest,” the report concludes.

FPDS-NG was launched so that agencies would connect to the system through contract-writing systems. Officials expected the modernized system to improve data accuracy, completeness and timeliness because the information was to be directly downloaded, the report states.

Contracting offices are expected to submit data on contract actions within three workdays after making an award, the report states. In addition, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy requires that each agency certify annually that all data is valid and complete.

Officials are outspoken about the need for good information. In a recent speech, Paul Denett, OFPP administrator, said good data can prove to Congress that the contracting community is doing well. But bad data can hurt it.

“God help us if we don’t get accurate data,” he said. “You have to make sure [the information] meets the smell test.”

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