GSA tries to solve contract review problems

General Services Administration officials told the inspector general they’ve fixed some policy problems with the Office of Integrated Technology Service’ contract review board process, according to a new report.

The GSA IG’s auditors found officials lacked a strategy to determine how many blanket purchase agreements were best to award on its Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) BPA. In October and November 2010, GSA awarded 12 BPAs that offer cloud storage services, virtual machines, or cloud web hosting.

In the IG report released June 4, auditors determined that the contracting officer did not base the number of awards on a strategy to make the IaaS BPA most effective for GSA customers. Instead, the officer planned to give BPAs to any company able to meet the solicitation’s requirements. However, the Federal Acquisition Regulation outlines several factors to determine the best number of BPAs. Officials need to consider scope and complexity of the requirements, the need to compare multiple technical approaches or prices from time to time, the administrative costs, and the technical qualifications of contractors.

“While we recognize that GSA views bringing cloud solutions to the federal marketplace as a priority, this should not come at the expense of sound contracting practices,” the auditors wrote.

The contract review board is responsible for looking over source selection decisions, but policies did not specify what documentation the board should examine in reviewing these decisions, according to the report.

In response to the initial report, Steve Kempf, FAS commissioner, wrote that FAS officials have revised the review policies, making the review boards pay specific attention to strategy and quality in acquisition proposals. It sets into policy the use of integrated project teams for upfront collaboration and independent reviews by experienced procurement analysts later on.

FAS officials finalized the changes in May. The final rules also require officials to verify that acquisition plans address the special considerations, such as BPA strategies, and that officials make awards supported by the results of set evaluations factors.

Since the revisions began in 2011, Kempf said ITS’ Office of Acquisition Operations conducted more than 45 contract reviews. He noted too that the contract review board rejected contracting officers’ submissions “in more than a few occasions.”

The rule change addressed auditors’ concerns about collaboration among the various parties involved in a complex procurement, like the IaaS BPA. Integrated project teams now include the program manager, contracting officer, a procurement analyst, and division supervisor to bring in as much experience to the upfront review. The team has to perform an oral presentation to the review board.

“This mandatory team discussion, at the very early stage of acquisition planning, serves as a kick-off session,” Kempf wrote.

About the Author

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

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