GSA: Oversight will not be outsourced

Letter from Waxman to Doan

The General Services Administration wants to offer agencies more contract support services, not overstep bounds by outsourcing oversight, officials said today.

The agency has come under more scrutiny recently by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee because of a proposal critics describe as giving contract oversight to private companies.

GSA’s proposal would add acquisition support services to the Mission Oriented Business Integrated Services (MOBIS) portion of the Federal Supply Schedule, according to a letter committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) wrote to GSA Administrator Lurita Doan June 14. Waxman said such a move would erode the government's role in oversight.

In the proposal, acquisition support contractors would have important oversight responsibilities, such as writing statements of work, evaluating bid proposals, reviewing offers and drafting task orders, according to Waxman’s letter.

However, in its statement, GSA denies that the proposed contract support services would include contractor oversight or obligating government funds.

“GSA is very aware of the need to prevent conflict of interests, and our solicitation does just that,” the agency said. “The integrity of the federal contracting process is paramount, and GSA will do everything to ensure that offering improved contracting services to GSA customers is responsive and compliant with all safeguards.”

Waxman also is concerned about the proposal because it creates a risk of significant conflicts of interest and poses a potential for waste, fraud and abuse, he wrote in his letter. Furthermore, he said he does not believe GSA and contractors can weed out all conflicts.

A new report from the committee -- “More Dollars, Less Sense: Worsening Contracting Trends Under The Bush Administration” -- supports Waxman’s concerns. It states that “the use of private contractors to oversee other contractors was a cornerstone of this administration’s approach to the reconstruction effort in Iraq.” It may also be the case with the Homeland Security Department’s beleaguered border protection contract, SBInet, the report states.

Mismanagement, fraud and abuse on federal contracts are a crosscutting problem because of inadequate contract management and oversight. Insufficient contract and acquisition personnel hamper oversight.

Waxman requested a briefing on the proposal before June 29, according to the letter.

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