Acquisition chiefs need clearer roles and responsibilities, GAO says

Agencies need to do a better job at clarifying what their chief acquisition officers are supposed to do for the sake of the organization, according to a new report.

Many departments don’t have documents defining those duties, and as a result they may lack a strong basis for more permanently including the CAO within their organizational leadership structure, the Government Accountability Office wrote in a report released July 26.

“Clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each stakeholder in the acquisition process is a key element of an effective acquisition function,” GAO wrote.

The amount of detail on an agency’s CAO’s authorities and responsibilities varies greatly based on the agency’s Federal Acquisition Regulation supplement and other policy documentation, GAO said.

GAO recommended that the Office of Federal Procurement Policy tell agencies to define the CAOs’ roles and responsibilities. OFPP agreed with the recommendation, according to the report.

CAOs at 16 agencies that GAO spoke with said they were not facing significant challenges related to their work. They didn’t complain about their level of influence in the acquisition process or the amount of control they have over acquisition budget resources. They also believe they had access to agency leadership.

In addition, few CAOs had acquisition management as their primary duty, and they did not dislike it, according to the report. In fact, some CAOs told GAO that it helped. Some CAOs are in charge of financial matters, information management, and human capital resources. These extra roles help them have a better influence on acquisition across their agencies.

But, as GAO has found in its other research of the acquisition workforce, agencies can always use more people.

“Most CAOs reported that not having enough staff to manage acquisitions was moderately to extremely challenging,” GAO reported.

About the Author

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

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