Waxman vows more oversight on procurement

Although he stopped short of calling the federal procurement system broken, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said today the system is inaccurate and unhelpful. Waxman blamed the former Republican-led Congress for neglecting oversight.

Waxman, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, vowed to have that panel review contracting regulations.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in procurement contracts in the government in all areas,” Waxman said in a speech at the Security Industry Association's 2007 Government Summit in Washington. But, he said, “a strong part of the ideology of this [the Bush] administration is to contract out.”

“In my mind, the important thing is that our contracting rules need to be clear, fair and fast,” he said. “We need to make sure that our efforts in this area are accountable [and] that there’s integrity in the contracting process.”

Waxman has introduced legislation to make contracting more accountable. The House passed his Accountability in Contracting Act by a wide margin in March, but the Senate has not moved on it. He also helped with the House’s passage of the Small Business Fairness in Contracting Act, which would break up bundled contracts because they leave small businesses out of competition.

Waxman is also emphasizing his increased oversight of the Bush Administration. For example, committee hearings have delved into alleged misconduct at the General Services Administration, specifically by its administrator, Lurita Doan. The Office of Special Counsel found that Doan violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits political activity done to be done in a federal building or on government time.

Doan will testify June 13 before Waxman’s committee for the second time. She has said the investigation was slanted.

In his speech, Waxman said the additional oversight is necessary because accountability has been forgotten. The previous Republican-led Congress, which investigated the Clinton administration in the 1990s over scandals, shrugged off its oversight responsibilities when Bush took over the White House in 2001, Waxman said.

Following the “wild tension between a Republican Congress and a Democratic administration…the Republican Congress decided that there wasn’t a scandal too big enough for them to ignore,” he said.

“They didn’t want to embarrass their own administration,” Waxman said. “So they decided to be good Republicans first and the leaders of an independent branch of government second. I think they made a mistake. They did a disservice.”

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