FTS aims to erase procurement weaknesses

The General Services Administration has put together a four-step plan to improve procurement oversight and training at regional Federal Technology Service offices.

The strategy follows a finding from the GSA inspector general that identified new examples of misuse of the IT Fund and the 8(a) contracting program in FTS regions 4 and 6.

The IG originally reported problems in Region 10, which forced GSA to close down its Bremerton, Wash., field. The office had used the IT Fund to award contracts for non-IT services office, sometimes to IT vendors participating in the Small Business Administration's 8(a) program.

Region 4 covers Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Region 6 covers Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

Acting deputy GSA administrator David Bibb and FTS commissioner Sandy Bates held a telephone briefing to share preliminary results of the IG's investigation of the two regions. The final report will be released "within the next several months," Bates said.

"The report helped us identify underlying weaknesses in our operation," Bates said. "Specifically, we were lacking training and supervisory oversight. We would have discovered these problems had we had stronger internal controls."

To solve the problem, GSA outlined a four-prong response:

* Regional administrators must submit action plans to respond to the conditions the IG found. FTS headquarters also is developing a plan to solve the problems on a national scale.

* Officials are reviewing short- and long-term goals for regional sales offices, with an emphasis on GSA's acquisition policies and principles.

* Officials are conducting a review of all internal controls. GSA will do legal reviews for select contracts, ask every procurement officer to use an acquisition checklist for new contracts, and conduct pre- and post-award reviews.

* Managers must send contracting officers and FTS sales associates to training sessions on procurement laws and regulations.

"We will have a much better feel of what is going on with the programs because of these reviews, and we will make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again," Bibb said. "It is clear from the IG's preliminary findings our safeguards were not adequate. We believe these new actions will maintain the integrity of the program."

As for the ongoing investigation into acquisition practices in Region 10, there is "no evidence of criminal behavior," Bibb said.

FTS' contracting issues will come under congressional scrutiny Thursday when FTS officials testify before the House Government Reform Committee.

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