House approves bill to limit no-bid contracting

The House of Representatives on Thursday approved legislation offered by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to restrict no-bid government contracting. The House passed HR 1362, the "Accountability in Contracting Act," by a vote of 347-73.

The legislation would change federal acquisition law to require agencies to limit the use of abuse-prone contracts, to increase transparency and accountability in federal contracting and to protect the integrity of the acquisition workforce, said Waxman, who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Affairs.

Information technology and other business officials previously had called the bill unnecessary and possibly detrimental. They asserted that the problems Waxman aimed to address could better be solved by strengthening the federal acquisition workforce.

The legislation reflects Waxman's concerns about government accountability and his contention that billions of tax dollars are being wasted on government contracts with poor oversight and lax controls.

Under the bill, agencies that award a noncompetitive contract would have to make available publicly their justifications. The legislation also sets time limits on noncompetitive contracts of more than $1 million. It would require quarterly disclosures of all audit reports and promote fixed-price contracting.

However, the Information Technology Association of America and 10 other business groups wrote Waxman saying several provisions are unnecessary and may be detrimental.

What's really needed is better application of existing regulations by a fully staffed, professional federal acquisition corps working with responsible government contractors, said ITAA President Phil Bond.

The ITAA and other groups protested the bill's provisions regarding disclosure of government contractor overcharges in quarterly audits, saying it was burdensome for government acquisition personnel, and ought to be limited to final audits.

They also objected to proposed restrictions of cost-reimbursement-type contracts and preferences for fixed-price programs, saying they may have harmful effects on government and industry because many contracts are unsuitable for fixed prices.

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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