IG: NIH follows most buying rules

NIH has improved how it follows DOD's acquisition rules in some areas, report says.

The National Institutes of Health's assisted acquisition services center has improved its adherence to the Defense Department’s acquisition rules, according to a recent report.

NIH is one of several agencies, including the General Services Administration and NASA, that can help DOD with buying information technology products and services. These assisted services by these agencies were called into question a few years ago when GSA was found not to be following DOD’s procurement rules. As a result, Congress required subsequent audits of assisted services to make sure the agencies’ services comply with the rules.

According to a report released by the Health and Human Services Department's inspector general in May, NIH’s Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center complied with appropriations statutes and financial management rules for 27 of the 33 audited task orders. The orders were placed on NIH’s Chief Information Officer-Solutions and Partners 2 Innovations governmentwide acquisition contract.

However, the IG also found that some problems persisted, saying, “The center initiated significant corrective actions but did not fully implement the recommendations in our previous report” from 2008.

The IG found NIH didn't always maintain adequate documentation on competition, award decisions and the process for monitoring contractors’ work. On two task orders, NIH didn’t document whether the contracting officer’s technical representative, who oversees the contractor’s work for the officer, had enough training in the area to sufficiently monitor the contract and the contracting officer didn’t describe the duties of the representative on a different task order, the report said.

Also, the technical representative didn’t prepare a required plan on how the contractor’s work would be checked and what the representative would look for in the assessment, the report states.

Also, NIH officials didn’t put into practice all the IG’s recommendations from a 2008 audit that told NIH to fix problems related to $1.4 million for IT equipment and services obligated for the wrong fiscal year. This new audit, a follow-up to the 2008 report, found $3.7 million in similar equipment and services obligated in the wrong year, the report states.

Responding to the IG’s report, Raynard Kington, NIH’s acting director, said his office was working with DOD officials and should have the problems resolved.

About the Author

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

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