New A-76 guidance will cut competition time 66 percent, Styles says

New A-76 guidance will cut competition time 66 percent, Styles says

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy plans to release the much-anticipated revision of OMB Circular A-76 as early as this afternoon.

Almost eight months after the Commercial Activities Panel issued its report calling for sweeping changes to the A-76 process, the draft proposal will inject new life into the process to conduct public-private competitions for agency work considered noninherently governmental, said Angela Styles, OFPP administrator.

'We tried to make this process faster, cheaper and easier to provide better service for the taxpayer,' Styles said today in a conference call with reporters. 'We are trying to create an environment that forces more competition into the commercial activities agencies perform and revitalize this initiative by making sure the process works well for government and private industry.'

OFPP will publish the draft revision in tomorrow's Federal Register, which will open a 30-day comment period.

Styles said the new circular incorporates the best-value process, similar to the one outlined in the Federal Acquisition Regulations, and a phased approach similar to the current A-76 process. She said agencies will use the best-value approach for IT work, new agency requirements or requirements for which agencies expand the scope of work by 30 percent. Agencies also may apply for a waiver to use the best-value approach in other industries.

'IT is clearly appropriate for the best-value process,' Styles said. 'It is rarely awarded on a low-cost basis. We want to evaluate and see how it works before moving it to other industries.'

Styles said the revised guidance should cut the time it takes to perform A-76 competitions by almost 66 percent. She said on average A-76 studies take three to four years, but under the new circular, agencies will have 12 months'eight months to write the statement of work and four months to conduct the actual competition.

The revised guidance also will hold agencies more accountable. Styles said agency workers who win competitions will sign a binding performance agreement and face repeat competition if they do not live up to their agreement.

'The contracting officer will follow the public-sector employees' performance as they do when a private-sector company works for the government,' Styles said. 'The public sector must meet their performance goals, or the contracting officer may decide not to renew the option years on the contract and recompete it.'

Styles said agencies will be subjected to repeat competition every three to five years, regardless of their performance.

OFPP also will hold agencies to the 12-month time frame to conduct a competition. Styles said if an agency falls behind, its officials will meet with OMB's deputy director for management to explain the causes and outline a remedial action plan.

Contracting officers also may disqualify a bid from public-sector employees if they miss the proposal deadline, Styles said.

Another significant change to the circular will let public- and private-sector entities bid on interagency service agreements such as contract administration, accounting and financial services or anything that is commercial in nature, Styles said. This means that one agency paying another for a commercial service will face competition in the next five years.

OFPP also is tightening the definition of inherently governmental and will let each agency decide which tasks it performs are governmental.

Styles said OFPP also tried to address union and industry concerns.

'We are asking the public sector to do the same as the private sector, but we also are leaving in the phased approach to give an agency the chance to become technically acceptable in low-cost bids,' she said. 'I think agencies and the private sector will embrace the new circular. We know we are putting a lot of pressure on agencies with the increased time frames, but they want something new that works better, and I think we have given it to them.'

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