GAO Questions Benefits of Simplified Acquisition Process

The General Accounting Office is questioning whether a streamlined acquisition process for small-ticket items is really saving time or money.

The April 20 report, "Contract Management: Benefits of Simplified Acquisition Test Procedures Not Clearly Identified," examined a test program that allowed government buyers to eliminate some procedures when purchasing commercial items below $5 million.

The test program, authorized under the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, was intended to maximize efficiency and minimize the burden and administrative costs for both government and industry. At the same time, government buyers were to promote competition as much as possible under the new procedures.

The GAO, however, found that "government buyers did not always demonstrate that prices were fair and reasonable for the eight sole-source contracts included in our review." The GAO studied only Defense Department purchasing practices because that agency has made the most use of the test program.

Procurement executives told GAO investigators they thought the program has had a positive effect on the time required to award a contract, administrative costs, prices, small business participation and delivery of products and services. But the congressional watchdog agency found no empirical evidence to back up their perceptions.

The report recommended the test program be extended to 2005, and that the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy develop a method to demonstrate that the simplified purchasing procedures produce the desired results.

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