GAO: DHS can't track Buy American Act compliance

The Homeland Security Department does not have the ability to fully track how well it is complying with the Buy American Act, according to a new report from acting Inspector General Richard Skinner.

"We were unable to fully validate compliance with Buy American Act [BAA] requirements because of DHS' inability to identify conclusively all procurements subject to BAA requirements and the tight time constraints under which the audit had to be conducted," the inspector general's report said.

The inspector general's audit, which covered November 2004 to February 2005, reviewed compliance with the 1933 law requiring the federal government to purchase American-made articles, materials and supplies as much as possible, with certain exceptions. It does not apply to services. Congress directed the Homeland Security secretary to report on its compliance for fiscal 2005.

The department identified about $165 million in acquisitions involving foreign end products, the report said, but that does not represent the "entire BAA universe at DHS."

While non-U.S. purchasing is believed to occur infrequently, DHS' automated computer systems do not permit ready identification of foreign acquisitions, according to the report.

"Neither the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation nor the Homeland Security Contract Information System have the capability to collect data regarding the amounts and types of foreign end products being procured by DHS," the report said.

At the same time, however, the inspector general found that DHS and its procurement offices have "sufficient policies and procedures to ensure compliance with BAA requirements."

The inspector general recommended additional training, revised contract information system guidance and continued collection of data on foreign acquisitions manually, until automated systems are in place.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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