Procurement

GAO: Contract systems falling short on small business pairings

a man grouping items by shape

The federal government doesn't have a system that can help pair small business subcontractors with prime contracts, and existing contract-tracking systems aren't up to the job either, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

Connecting small business to prime contracts matters because federal law requires prime contractors to make good-faith efforts to award a portion of their subcontracts to small businesses, and in some cases to have small business subcontracting plans.

In a report released Dec. 11, GAO said it assessed the feasibility of using existing federal contract-reporting systems to connect small business subcontractors with prime contracts, and identified actions federal agencies are taking to help in the effort.

GAO said it reviewed four government-wide contract-reporting systems and extracted data using information from previously reviewed defense programs to try to link small business subcontractors to prime contracts.

Although the reporting systems GAO reviewed contain information on subcontracting plans, subcontracts and subcontractors, it said none was designed to connect small business subcontractors with prime contracts and none contains all the information needed to support that function.

GAO said it used the Electronic Subcontract Reporting System, USASpending.gov, Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation, and the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act Subaward Reporting System.

Only 37 of 100 contracts queried reported subcontract data, GAO said.

But multiple actions are under way, or called for by legislation, that could produce a single system that can link small business subcontractors to prime contracts, GAO noted.

The General Services Administration, the report said, is consolidating the functions and information of several existing contract reporting systems. The Treasury Department was recently given responsibility to operate and maintain USASpending.gov and plans to make changes to improve the search function of that website, which could help facilitate linking subcontractors to prime contracts.

In addition, GAO said, the Data Act could bolster those efforts because it requires agencies to disclose additional data relevant to subcontracting; improve the consistency and reporting of the data; and periodically review the completeness, timeliness, quality and accuracy of the data.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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