Mistakes cost GSA time, money, auditor says

The General Services Administration’s poor acquisition planning and contract oversight is costing the agency much more than necessary to award the massive Alliant and Alliant Small Business contracts.

GSA sought a contractor to handle its past performance interviews on the companies that bid on the two multibillion-dollar governmentwide acquisition contacts, and the contracting officer awarded a task order for $242,400 to Calyptus Consulting Group, a contractor in the Multiple Award Schedule program. However, the company’s bid was 36 percent higher than the next proposal, wrote Erin Priddy, audit manager at the Acquisition Programs Audit Office in the GSA Office of the Inspector General, in a report released Oct. 9.

Although GSA’s statement of work states the technical evaluation factors were more important than price, the contracting officer couldn’t show why Calyptus was the best value, Priddy wrote.

“There was insufficient documentation to support that the government received a fair and reasonable price for this task order,” she wrote.

Under the order, Calyptus was required to conduct 600 interviews regarding Alliant’s bidding companies' past work and 1,500 interviews for companies seeking spots on the Alliant Small Business contract. But questions about Calyptus’ work helped the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to rule against GSA in March, ultimately requiring officials to re-evaluate the bids, including the past performances reviews.

Similarly, officials failed to plan for the purchase, Priddy wrote. The audit revealed no evidence of the required acquisition plans, although agency policy requires it for a purchase of that size. The planning should have included delivery and performance schedules and set responsibilities for managing the contract.

The contracting officer technical representative in charge of managing the contract fumbled on several counts, Priddy wrote. Although GSA received the interview reports, the representative paid Calyptus without receiving validation that the company had done the work or inspecting whether its work was accurate. The error also tipped the court to rule against GSA, she wrote. In addition, the representative simply let Calyptus certify itself regarding conflicts of interest with the companies on which it would be checking, the report states.

The core of the problem stems from the representative's experience. The representative had last received training in 2004, and this work wasn’t the individual’s regular job, the report states.

It’s “a costly and time-consuming outcome that highlights the importance of proper contract oversight,” Priddy wrote.

In response to the audit, GSA officials said they would give contracting employees more training and would establish a contract review board to see that GSA’s Office of Integrated Technology Service’s task orders and awards are managed better.

About the Author

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

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