FEMA moves forward with simplified procurements

Federal purchasing officers may spend up to $10 million in goods and services for Hurricane Katrina recovery using simplified procedures with limited competition, according to a new white paper issued by Acquisition Solutions Inc., a government acquisition services firm in Oakton, Va.

The threshold for such procurements under the Federal Acquisition Regulation has been raised to $10 million for Katrina-related relief, up from $5 million previously, the nine-page report states.

Acquisitions Solutions has been tapped by FEMA to help it manage the billions of dollars of spending expected to flow through the agency.

In addition, certain provisions related to federal procurements have been waived due to the emergency nature of the Katrina spending, including suspension of affirmative action and Equal Employment Opportunity clauses, as well as the Davis-Bacon Act requiring payment of prevailing local wages set by the Labor Department.

Those are just a few of the many emergency procurement procedures being used in the aftermath of Katrina as federal agencies prepare to spend more than $60 billion approved by Congress for disaster relief and recovery.

Federal procurements for Katrina are being handled on an emergency basis: President Bush has declared the disaster a national emergency, Congress has approved legislation for the emergency procurements, the Labor Department has relaxed federal contract compliance and the Office of Management and Budget has issued new guidance on micropurchases, those under $250,000.

Acquisition Solutions said it issued the white paper to assist the federal acquisition workforce in moving quickly and protecting the integrity of the contracts.

"Contracting in emergency situations can be challenging, but there are authorities that allow agencies to contract quickly and effectively with limited or no competition to meet critical needs effectively," Acquisition Solutions said in the report.

The company is helping to draft contracts and providing technical advice and staff support to FEMA for the Katrina relief, the Washington Post reported Sept. 17. "Acquisition Solutions does not discuss specific client engagements with the press," the company said in a statement on its Web site.

Due to emergency and contingency declarations related to Hurricane Katrina recovery, federal procurement officials may use several emergency tools to help set up contracts quickly, including the ability to spend up to $15,000 without competition; the ability to spend $250,000 on government credit cards under certain conditions; and the ability to spend up to $10 million for commercial items and services under certain provisions of the FAR.

In addition, the Homeland Security Department has instructed its procurement offices that it is waiving all headquarters reviews required under the FAR and under the agency's own acquisition regulation and manual. "Heads of contracting activities have been delegated such approval authorities until further notice," the white paper said.

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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