DHS making strides in acquisition management, IG says

Progress was moderate in 2009, but only modest in 2008

The Homeland Security Department is showing more improvement in acquisition management since a year ago, according to a new report from DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner.

The department’s progress in managing acquisition was rated as “moderate” in the Dec. 2 report, which is better than the “modest progress” rating in last year’s report.

IT management and emergency management held steady with moderate ratings for both years. Skinner said. Grants management and financial management scored modestly overall for both years. Some Coast Guard financial controls received Skinner's lowest rating, and civilian fund balance management received the highest score.

DHS” acquisition shop has made gains in updating its policies and procedures, the report said. The department is counting on its new review process for all professional services contracts greater than $1 million to provide “new rigor” to its acquisition oversight, Skinner wrote. Although DHS officials have provided guidance on award fees in the department’s acquisition manual, a federal audit showed that individual contracting offices were not always following those guidelines, he noted.

In addition, DHS has made moderate progress in beefing up its acquisition workforce, with improvements cited at the Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Also, DHS centralized recruitment and hiring, established a program to hire and mentor procurement interns, created a tuition assistance program, and structured rotational and development work assignments.

“However, DHS needs time to complete all of these new initiatives. In the interim, personnel shortages will continue to hamper the department’s ability to manage its contracts and workload in an effective and efficient manner,” Skinner wrote.

Also in the acquisition unit, Skinner rated progress as modest in the organizational alignment and leadership, and in knowledge management.

DHS Undersecretary for Management Elaine Duke recently outlined major management priorities for 2010, including enhanced oversight of acquisitions through a more centralized procurement structure.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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