Skinner: DHS must shore up acquisition management

The Homeland Security Department's management of its acquisition workforce is muddled and confused as shown by inaccurate data, absent information and inconsistent rules, according to an audit by DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner.

"The absence of complete, accurate and reliable data on contracting officers, program managers and contracting officers' technical representatives (COTRs) likely impedes DHS' effective management of its acquisition workforce," the report concluded.

The lack of high-quality information makes it more complicated for DHS to recruit, hire, train and budget for procurements, and inconsistent management directives add confusion to major acquisition processes, the report said.

The department appears to lack a current inventory of certified personnel and the acquisitions to which they are assigned, Skinner wrote in the report.

For example, information in the department's central Acquisition Workforce (AWF) Development Office database should match information in component databases managed by the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and Transportation Security Administration.

However, the IG found that was not the case. "There were large differences in the number and names of acquisition personnel listed in the DHS AWF and component
databases," the report said.

The central DHS database contained 1,506 names of contracting officers, program managers and technical representatives for the Coast Guard, TSA, and CBP. By comparison, the component databases for those agencies contaied 2,136 names, the report said.

The central database contained 184 names that were not in the component databases, and there were 814 names in the component databases that were not in the central repository.

CBP had the highest rate of matching, 91 percent, and the Coast Guard had the lowest, 82 percent. The rate of matching in individual acquisition programs was even lower. For example, in one acquisition program, the Coast Guard listed only 20 names of the 35 technical representatives assigned to the project. On another project, TSA listed 8 of the 12 acquisition representatives.

DHS also is lax in managing information about warrants and certifications held by its contracting officers. "For the most part, the acquisition personnel files that we reviewed did not have supporting documentation, such as applications, DHS certifications, training certificates, transcripts and waivers. None of the components had complete training, warrant and certification files for their contracting officers, program managers and COTRs readily available," the report said.

Finally, DHS' management directives related to the acquisition workforce do not reflect current federal policy and are inconsistent with one another, the IG said. This creates confusion about which acquisitions require which levels of acquisition workforce certification.

The IG recommended developing proper policies and procedures, quality control practices and management directives. Department officials generally agreed with the recommendations, though they objected to some of the audit's statistical sampling techniques.

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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