Letter: Editorial trivializes disagreement between IG, contracting officers

Regarding “Editorial: Fixing the schedules,” the battle at the General Services Administration is not some meaningless feud as you seem to describe or the result of some personality clash. There is a core issue here: Who sets procurement policy? This is hardly some meaningless feud, but a battle royale between the inspector general and contracting officers, with the administrator leading the charge for the officers. It is also not quite accurate to portray the GSA IG as simply “more aggressive.” You will not find anyone that objects to an “aggressive” IG, but when an IG believes that he or she is the ultimate authority on setting pricing, establishing procurement guidelines and negotiating contracts, the IG is not acting as an impartial watchdog, but seeks to determine procurement policy. When IGs then use their investigatory powers to hound anyone who disagrees, publicly labeling them as frauds and cheats, well then you have a real problem that must be solved. The IG is not “aggressive” but dangerously misguided. 

More than a year ago, every single one of the companies responsible for the largest volume of sales at GSA told the administrator that the IG was driving up costs and creating problems that needed to be solved. If left unchecked, each of them indicated that they would opt out of the GSA schedule. That is exactly what they are doing now.  


You also trivialize the disagreement by suggesting that GSA Administrator Lurita Doan and GSA IG Brian Miller should just work out their differences. Maybe have coffee or tea or something, eh? Well, let me tell you, as a GSA contracting officer, Doan has been a real champion of the procurement officers who have grown frustrated playing with a stacked deck and a “gotcha mentality” fostered by the IG. But if she backs away for a single minute or seeks now to paper over these fundamental differences, she will instantly lose all the gains and the restoration of morale that GSA has made in the past couple of years. For the first time in years, contracting officers have someone willing to push back and you are seeing a real burst of new ideas and energy at GSA. But if Doan buckles or takes your recommendation to go soft now, it all stops and you will then see an even greater exodus of the most experienced and capable contracting officers from government service and even more companies will leave the GSA schedule.


Anonymous
General Services Administration


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