GSA trying to get ahead of congressional scrutiny

The General Services Administration will try to satisfy congressional demands before lawmakers make them.

By Dec. 31, the agency will release an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to gain input from industry and agencies on how to address the buying of services in the Federal Acquisition Regulations.

David Drabkin, GSA's deputy associate administrator for acquisition policy, said today that while Congress is too busy dealing with other issues now, they will soon turn attention to how agencies buy services.

In 2003, services accounted for more than 60 percent of the $321 billion agencies spent on procurement, Drabkin said.

"We have to be able to explain what we got for these services," he said at the Coalition for Government Procurement's spring conference in Arlington, Va. "We can't just say we got 45,000 hours, than means nothing, especially to Congress."

Drabkin said the FAR has only peripherally dealt with service acquisitions, and with lawmakers increasing their scrutiny on procurement, it is only a matter of time before they look at services more closely.

GSA already is trying to put out fires in a number of procurement areas. For instance, Drabkin said there is a lot of concern in Congress about purchase card abuses.

"The abuses amount to less than 1 percent of all buys with the card," Drabkin said. "We recover payment for 99 percent of the abuses and the employees were either fired or in jail."

GSA also is working to convince the Senate Armed Services Committee that it is fixing the Federal Technology Service's contracting problems. The committee put a provision in the Senate Defense Department reauthorization bill that would not let DOD use FTS until its inspector general and GSA's IG said contracting problems were solved.

The committee also wants to limit the fee DOD pays to agencies to use their contracting services or vehicles, such as governmentwide acquisition contracts. Drabkin said this would not affect the Federal Supply Service schedules, but it would affect FTS and the Public Building Service contracts and services.

"We are working very hard to satisfy the committee and prove we have fixed the problems," Drabkin said. "We are putting new processes in place to make sure the rules are followed."

Drabkin said GSA is drafting a new rule or guidance to address situations when buyers or contractors fail to meet regulations.

"If we find irregularities, we will provide training to make sure they know what happened was wrong, and if we continue to see these problems, we will debar or suspend the contractor or not let the agency use our contracting services," Drabkin said.

Drabkin said the current environment, specifically the recent highly visible abuses by the Army, led GSA to move forward more quickly. The Army used an IT contract to buy interrogator services from CACI Inc. of Arlington, Va.

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