GSA launches "Get it Right" to improve compliance with procurement rules

General Services Administration officials today launched a new program, "Get it Right," in an effort to make sure that GSA contracting officers and agencies using GSA's contract vehicles always follow procurement rules.

At the Washington meeting where GSA's plan was unveiled, Defense Department procurement official Deidre Lee detailed steps DOD employees will also take to make sure they correctly use GSA contract vehicles.

GSA Deputy Administrator David Bibb said the meeting, attended by GSA and DOD contracting officers, was a critical step in fixing problems related to noncompliance with federal acquisition regulations.

Those problems include misuse of small-business contracts, ordering work outside the scope of a contract and ordering work outside the scope of the Information Technology Fund, according to a January report by GSA's inspector general and subsequent GSA findings.

Most recently, GSA found that the Army purchased interrogation services from CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Va., through a General Services Administration information technology contract. The task did not fall within the scope of the IT contract, GSA found.

Although officials said the number of rules violations is small compared to the total number of GSA contracting actions annually, GSA administrators said they have been working for months to make corrections and take preventive actions. According to GSA official David Drabkin, the agency conducted 11 million transactions worth more than $25,000 last year.

"We are striving to achieve a zero-deficiency environment," said GSA Administrator Stephen Perry. "Some skeptics might say they've heard such words before. We must make sure this is real."

The premise of "Get it Right" is to proactively supervise the use of GSA contract vehicles to get the best value for the taxpayer and make acquisitions in the best interest of the agency buyer, Perry said. The campaign will stress:

  • Procurement rules compliance

  • Full and open competition

  • Transparency in the contracting process

  • Clarification of procurement rules and policy changes as needed

  • Acquisition workforce training and education

  • Improved communication on procurement best practices with agency buyers, industry partners, the Office of Management and Budget and congressional overseers.

Lee, director of defense procurement and acquisition policy, said she supports the use of GSA contract vehicles, as long as they are used properly. The department has been criticized by some members of Congress for paying to use other agencies' contract vehicles instead of DOD vehicles.

Lee said DOD officials are drafting a new rule that will require an internal review process before using another agency's contracting vehicle. DOD is already required by law to conduct these reviews for services purchases over $100,000; the new rule will add reviews for product buys over $100,000. Lee said she hopes an interim rule implementing the change will be published in about six weeks.

The review procedure must address whether the task is within the scope of the vehicle and whether the vehicle meets the customer's need and is cost-effective, when both price and fees to use the vehicle are considered, Lee said.

DOD and GSA contracting officers both have roles to play in ensuring contract vehicles are used properly, Lee said. DOD contracting officers must tell GSA contracting officers about DOD-specific purchasing requirements, such as the requirement for performance-based contracts on purchases over $100,000, and GSA contracting officers need to ask about such provisions, she said.

In addition, contractors need to tell their government customer when a requested product or service does not fall within the scope of the contract, Lee said.

"If a contractor thinks they are asked to perform something out of scope, they should say 'This isn't quite right,' Lee said. "Do the right thing. Use the schedules properly."

Perry said the tasks required of contracting officers won't lengthen the procurement process.

"When you do proper upfront work on an acquisition, there will be less redo," he said. "It will get done faster."

To further grasp the extent of contracting rules violations, GSA managers are reviewing all services contracts worth more than $100,000 let by the agency on its vehicles over the last 12 months. Those reviews should be finished this summer, and the findings will be shared with contracting officers. In October, GSA will begin reviewing contracts let by other agencies on its vehicles, said Drabkin, assistant deputy administrator for acquisition policy at GSA.

"These procurement reviews will become a permanent part of our procedures," he said.

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