Commerce delayed new contracting policies

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Acquisition officials at the Commerce Department have been slow in applying new contracting policies, letting some polices sit idle for more than a year, a report by the department's inspector general's office has found.


Commerce officials failed to tell its contracting officers about monitoring certain subcontracts, and they allowed training deadlines to slip by, Judith Gordon, assistant inspector general for audit and evaluation at the department, wrote in a report June 26.

In 2007, officials from Commerce and the Small Business Administration agreed to have Commerce’s contracting officers, instead of SBA, oversee to whom Alaska Native Corporations awarded subcontracts. The officers are to make sure the corporations comply with requirements regarding selecting disadvantaged small businesses for subcontracts, the report said.


However, Commerce officials didn’t tell their contracting officers about the extra supervision, even a year after entering into the agreement with the SBA, Gordon wrote.

Commerce officials told Gordon they didn’t send out word to the officers because the department had not updated its automated procurement system, C-Stars, to include the new agreement. Department officials said staff shortages caused the delays in updating the system, the report states.

The officials said they would promptly complete the update and tell their contracting officers about the new role, Gordon wrote.

In addition, Commerce’s program and project managers and contracting officer technical representatives were not certified by the deadlines set in 2007 by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), Gordon wrote.

OFPP officials mandated the certification programs for the managers and technical representatives in 2007 to improve their understanding of the entire acquisition process.


Commerce officials said their certification programs weren’t ready because they believed OFPP’s policy didn’t adequately define the competencies agencies needed to develop in the certification programs. The officials also said the training center, the Federal Acquisition Institute, didn’t have enough classes to meet the governmentwide demand, the report states.

OFPP staff told Gordon that FAI could have added more classes.


In May, Commerce officials released a draft certification policy for managers and the technical representatives. 

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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