VA contracting officers may face penalty for poor recordkeeping

Acquisition employees required to enter contracting data but often fail to enter it in full or in part

A senior Veterans Affairs Department official plans to propose a penalty for contracting officers if they don't file contracting information into VA's departmentwide database, the official said April 13.

Under a new proposal, contracting officers could be docked on their annual employee performance reviews for failing to enter information into the VA’s Electronic Contract Management System, Glenn Haggstrom, executive director of VA’s Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction, told the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’ Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

Haggstrom said he intends to bring the proposal to VA's senior procurement council soon for further discussions.


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The failure to record required information isn't all on contracting officers. Haggstrom and other senior acquisition officials at the VA pointed to management officials and the department's senior executives as having a heavy responsibility to get their employees to enter data into the system. (Get hearing testimony.)

Acquisition employees are required to enter contracting data into the records management system, but many times employees have failed, department oversight officials also said during the hearing.

Belinda Finn, assistant inspector general for audits and evaluations at the VA, said that if used as intended, the management system could reduce costs, integrate the procurement process, ease the workload on employees, and improve communications about what’s happening in the procurement offices.

However, “we continue to see low levels of compliance associated with VA contracting staff using this system and when the system is used, the information in the system is incomplete,” Finn said.

In a 2009 IG report on the system’s usage, officials recorded just over 17 percent of procurement actions -- or 1,150 -- worth roughly $319 million. Meanwhile, officials failed to record 83 percent, or 5,600 actions worth $1.4 billion, Finn said.

Those statistics put the auditors and the IG's office in a bind.

“You can’t manage what you don’t know about,” Finn said.

Several subcommittee members questioned VA officials about employee penalties for not using a mandated system.

"That's some kind of penalty," Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) said of Haggstrom's proposal. But, he added, "Firing is another penalty."

About the Author

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

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