Officials hope unique identifiers will sharpen procurement data reporting

Proposed policy would require a unique identifier in a standardized format for each procurement

Agencies may have to develop unique identifiers for their contracts and orders under a new proposal meant to improve the quality of federal data.

The Civilian Agency Acquisition and the Defense Acquisition Regulations councils have proposed standardizing the use of unique procurement instrument identifiers (PIID) throughout the government and giving agencies policies on how to use the identifiers, according to a notice published in today’s Federal Register. A PIID consists of alpha characters in the first positions to indicate the agency, followed by alphanumeric characters identifying bureaus, offices, or other administrative subdivisions.

Under the proposal, agencies would have to ensure each PIID reported to the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) would be unique for all contracts and orders. The identifier would have to be unique for at least 20 years from the contract’s award and used on all solicitations. Agencies also would have to submit the format of their identifier to the General Services Administration’s Integrated Acquisition Environment Program Office, according to the notice.

Officials hope to improve transparency, the quality of the contract and spending reports with the proposed policy.

As it stands now, the Federal Acquisition Regulation requires the unique identifiers, but it has no policies that accompany the rule. And the lack of specifics causes numerous hitches for contract data in governmentwide systems, such as FPDS, and other systems that issue reports on the data, according to the notice.

The result is duplication, errors and discrepancies, and these problems are exacerbated by multiple-award contracts that more than one agency uses, the notice states.

“Without a consistent means for distinguishing PIIDs for each agency to ensure uniqueness beyond FPDS reporting, it is difficult to report to the level of transparency required by” the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which instituted USASpending.gov, and the economic stimulus law, the notice states.

At a congressional hearing in July, Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, said his auditors hit numerous roadblocks in their oversight of contract and grant awards because there’s no cohesion among agencies on how they code their awards.

 

About the Author

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

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