GAO raps procurement office on slow FSS response

The General Accounting Office has chided the Office of Federal Procurement Policy for responding too slowly to its recommendations to ensure more competition on Federal Supply Service schedule buys.

In a letter to OFPP administrator Angela Styles, David Cooper, director of GAO's Acquisition and Sourcing management office, said OFPP's delays were because of complications of other FSS issues, such as the dispute over the use of time and materials contracts to buy services.

Cooper said OFPP should issue the guidances on competitive quotes and sole-source awards before resolving the other FSS concerns, because the regulations would immediately improve how agencies use the schedule.

GAO in a November 2000 report found that contracting officers did not follow ordering procedures to seek competitive quotes for services. At the time, the audit agency recommended OFPP publish the requirement for competitive quotes in the Federal Acquisition Regulations and clarify the FAR pertaining to sole-source orders for services.

"Although a FAR case has been opened, little progress has been made in implementing the recommendations," Cooper said. "We are concerned about the delay because sales of services under the FSS continue to substantially increase."

Agencies spent about $12.6 billion on services off the General Services Administration schedule in fiscal 2002, which is about 60 percent of the schedule's total sales.

The problem of issuing sole-source awards was so widespread in the Defense Department that Congress forced the agency to change. In October, the Defense Department implemented Section 803 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2002, which requires defense contracting personnel to receive at least three bids from companies when buying from multiple-award contracts.

GAO also found this problem is prevalent in civilian agencies. Cooper said a NASA audit found eight of 20 FSS buys did not follow ordering procedures.

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