GSA, DOD hoping to show lawmakers they are getting it right

GSA, DOD hoping to show lawmakers they are getting it right

The inspectors general of the General Services Administration and Defense Department are working closely to change the poor image lawmakers and other doubters have about the Federal Technology Service and Federal Supply Service schedules contracting practices.

David Drabkin, GSA's deputy chief acquisition officer, said the audit organizations started working last October to increase the reviews of agency and vendor task orders.

GSA and DOD have come under fire over the last year for contracting problems. At FTS regional offices, GSA's IG found multiple violations of procurement regulations, and DOD's IG found that the military bought non-IT services off IT contracts.

Congress responded to these problems by including provisions in the DOD Authorization bill that would limit the agency's use of FTS and FSS schedules (see GCN story).

Someone in Congress thought we were taking a 9 percent fee, 'and that's nuts, but if that is what they believe, it is true,' Drabkin said yesterday at an event sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council and the American Council for Technology. 'The IGs have been working on these changes long before the legislation got drafted. And they will look at these issues again in a month or so.'

Drabkin said Congress and administration are discussing how to mitigate the provisions in the authorization bill.

The cooperation between GSA and DOD is a part of the Get It Right campaign the agencies launched over the summer to improve governmentwide acquisition.

Drabkin said GSA will issue an internal policy within the next week that will require contracting officers to find out what legal or regulatory restrictions come with the money other agencies want to spend on products and services through GSA. This policy, in part, is in reaction to some of the misuse of funds found in FTS and DOD audits over the past year.

'Agencies and vendors need to treat contracts like sushi, if it doesn't smell right, don't eat it,' said Neal Fox, FSS's assistant commissioner for acquisition.

DOD and GSA also are taking acquisition training to agency contracting officers. Defense officials will identify the top 100 schedule users and GSA will take the Get It Right training to them, Drabkin said.

'We will ask the other agencies to do the same and make this a permanent part of our work,' he added.

As part of the overall Get It Right training program, GSA is developing an acquisition wizard as a part of the Integrated Acquisition Environment e-government project. It would provide agency contracting officers with a process for reviewing acquisition plans to ensure that competition, best value, lowest price and socioeconomic factors have been considered, and it would give feedback to improve the procurement process. GSA eventually will make the wizard available to all agencies.

Even with the contracting problems agencies have faced, use of the schedules could increase by 25 percent this year. Fox said FSS is projecting $34.5 billion in sales off the schedule for fiscal 2004, which ends today. This is up from $27.4 billion in 2003 and $21.1 billion in 2002.

Fox said GSA estimates IT schedule use would increase by 23 percent to $18.5 billion in 2004. In 2003, agencies spent about $15 billion.

Agencies' use of governmentwide acquisition contracts has leveled off this year with a second straight year of $2.9 billion in sales, Fox said.

'There has been some activity moving from the IT schedules to the engineering or management ones,' Fox said. 'We also are seeing some agencies not exercising their options on GWACs.'


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