GAO urges oversight strategy to measure acquisition changes

The Office of Management and Budget has implemented or is in the process of applying 37 of 89 recommendations the Acquisition Advisory Panel submitted in January 2007. But Government Accountability Office auditors say there is no way to ensure all 89 are addressed unless the Office of Federal Procurement Policy develops an oversight strategy that includes milestones and reporting requirements.

GAO's findings and actions come a year after the panel, created by the Services Acquisition Reform Act, issued recommendations on how to improve federal service contracting.

But in the year since the panel delivered its final report, OFPP has not developed a way to measure its progress in implementing the recommendations, GAO found.

"Without an overall strategy or plan, it is unclear how OFPP will gauge the successes and shortcomings in how the panel recommendations improve federal acquisitions," auditors said in a report issued Jan. 22 to Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

GAO also recommended OFPP work with chief acquisition officers and senior procurement executives to develop the implementation strategy.

Davis asked GAO last January to review OFPP's implementations to see how many should be adopted and whether the suggestions will improve the federal acquisition system.

Davis said the fact that OFPP agrees with most of the recommendations is an important consensus to make these changes.

"While I applaud OFPP's aggressive efforts to review and implement the best of the panel's recommendations, I hope OFPP will develop such a plan and continue its efforts to study and implement the best ideas and programs," Davis said. "While I do not support each and every one of the panel's recommendations, I think the majority of them are positive. Most important the panel report has helped foster a positive, reasoned debate that will hopefully lead to well-thought-out and productive reforms."

OFPP agreed with all but two of the recommendations, GAO said. It disapproved of the suggestion to rename contracting officer technical representatives to contracting officer performance representative, and it did not want to allow protests for task order contracts worth more than $5 million. OFPP wants the threshold for protest to be higher.

Beyond the 37 recommendations OFPP has initiated work on, 22 suggestions require legislative action, the administration is reviewing 16 others, agencies need to take action on 13 and one has been subsumed by

OFPP officials provided oral comments to GAO and generally agreed with the auditors' findings, the report states.

Marcia Madsen, SARA panel chairwoman, said she wasn't surprised by the report's recommendations or findings and was pleased that GAO concurred with most of the panel's suggestions. But she believes more impetus needs to be placed on agencies to make change because they are the buyers.

"OFPP can persuade, nag or issue policy letters, but can't make agencies do this," Madsen said. "GAO likely will follow up with agency progress to implement these recommendations."

She hopes that as federal acquisition rules and regulations are modified, the panel's work is given serious thought.

"We think the analysis is good and the recommendations are sound and moderate," she said. "I hope they are looked at before anyone jumps to conclusions and takes large swings at the process."

Jason Miller writes for Government Computer News and Federal Computer Week, 1105 Government Information Group publications.

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