DHS awarded noncompetitive contracts without having adequate records, IG says

Of 39 files reviewed, most were missing market research or other documentation

The records for the majority of some Homeland Security Department’s noncompetitive contracts are either missing or inadequate, according to a new report from DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner.

The IG reviewed 39 DHS contract files valued at $196 million for fiscal 2009. Of those, 33 contract files, or 85 percent, lacked full documentation, said the report issued March 4.

“Acquisition personnel did not always follow regulations, policies, or procedures to support awarding the contracts through other than full and open competition,” Skinner wrote. “As a result, the department cannot ensure that it received the best possible value on the goods and services it acquired from these contracts.”

While Homeland Security officials generally agreed with Skinner's recommendations in the report, they also defended their record of competitive contracting and said full and open competitive contracting had increased to 76 percent of all contracts in fiscal 2009, up from 75 percent the year before.

“The Chief Procurement Officer recommends that the report also recognizes the significant accomplishments DHS has made in the area of competition,” Richard Gunderson, acting chief procurement officer, wrote in a response to the draft report.

Under the Federal Acquisition Regulation, an agency contracting officer must provide a written justification when contracts of a certain size are awarded without full and open competition. The justification must have documentation of approvals and a certification that the information is complete and accurate.

Contract data recorded in the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation showed that 15 of the 39 noncompetitive procurements at DHS required a written justification and approval. However, two files did not have those documents, the report said.

Federal acquisition rules also require that agencies conduct market research for all procurements. Deficiencies were found with the market research for 31 of the 39 contracts reviewed. The files with insufficient documentation in market research included 14 files, or 78 percent, of the 18 small business 8a sole source procurement files. Those small business contracts were a subset of the 39 contracts reviewed.

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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