Faulty databases hobble program evaluation

Faulty databases hobble program evaluation

Congress should hold off making a simplified acquisition test program permanent until agencies provide reliable data about it, the General Accounting Office said.

Lawmakers sought to streamline procurement methods when they created the test program, which removes some procedures for procurements under $5 million. The test program expires Jan. 1.

But according to GAO's report, Contract Management: No Reliable Data to Measure Benefits of the Simplified Acquisition Test Program, the unreliability of procurement databases makes it impossible to tell how much agencies are using the test program or whether they are benefiting from it.

GAO said the Federal Procurement Data System contains unreliable data about the test program, with records understating or overstating agencies' use of the program by millions of dollars. For example, the database shows that the Mint used the test program for $242 million in contracts in 2002, while the agency reported that it did not use the test program at all.

Similarly, the FPDS records show $4 million in Defense Logistics Agency procurements under the test program, while DLA said it issued $146 million in test program contracts, according to the GAO report.

The General Services Administration operates and maintains the FPDS through the Federal Procurement Data Center. The database serves as the central repository of federal contracting information.

The auditors also found faulty data in the Defense Department's Defense Contract Action Data System, which feeds FPDS. The Defense contract database incorrectly recorded $146 million in test program contract actions for the Naval Air Systems Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency, GAO found.

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