FTS contracting improvements taking hold, IG reports

FTS contracting improvements taking hold, IG reports

The General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service is on its way to repairing pervasive contracting problems throughout its customer service centers, agency officials and its inspector general said.

The IG reviewed 227 task orders worth $3.2 billion from fiscal 2003 and 105 task orders worth $1.3 billion from March through May of 2004. Whereas auditors found widespread problems with the 2003 deals, from misuse of contract vehicles to awarding contracts outside the scope of the IT Fund, audits of 2004 task orders showed improvement.

'The IG report provides no surprises,' said David Bibb, GSA deputy administrator, in a conference call with reporters today. 'Since the initial shortcomings were found in the first audit, GSA has taken aggressive action to make things better. As we move forward, we will soon be in compliance with the full spectrum of procurement rules and regulations.'

In January, an IG audit found that the FTS' client support centers in three regions had breached federal procurement laws.

'I don't think it would be appropriate to say FTS had an epidemic of contracting problems, but there were enough problems to say that the program was in definite need of a fix,' said Eugene Wazsily, GSA's assistant IG for auditing, in an interview with GCN.

GSA officials yesterday briefed the House Government Reform and Armed Services and the Senate Governmental Affairs committees on the audit's latest findings, and plan to discuss the report with the Senate Armed Services Committee after Jan. 1, Bates said.

"Notwithstanding Chairman [Tom] Davis' (R-Va.) belief that GSA should be the federal government's agent to manage the government's communications environment, GSA must get its house in order so that it is up to the task," said Drew Crockett, a House Government Reform Committee spokesman. "Because of the IG's revelations of procurement irregularities at FTS, Chairman Davis will be reviewing options to resolve the agency's structural and management challenges. If this requires that we mandate a permanent reorganization within GSA, Chairman Davis is prepared to take whatever action is needed, including the introduction of legislation that will do so."

After the initial audit, GSA launched the Get It Right Campaign in July to correct these problems. With the Get It Right initiative in place, the IG office is evaluating FTS contracts and task orders from August to November as part of its report to Congress, due March 15.

'FTS has turned the corner,' said Sandy Bates, the FTS commissioner. 'Our work is not finished and we will always need to push ahead to put in new policies and procedures as needed, especially as the complexity of our work continues to grow. But everyone in FTS has shown progress.'

According to the IG's latest report, many FTS offices had nowhere to go but up.

The IG audit of 2003 contracts found 58 percent of all task orders that required competition were not competed; 20 task orders were awarded for services outside the scope of the base contract, such as replacing lead cable and setting up a wireless local area network for a convention under a Gigabit Ethernet network contract; and contracting officers used the IT Fund to fulfill 38 task orders worth $571 million for medical technicians and warehouse personnel and such services as firearms instruction.

In the sampling of 2004 task orders, auditors found a significant improvement in some contracting offices' practices.

'Progress in implementing the new controls in the customer service centers ranged from substantial in some centers to just getting started in others,' Waszily said in the report. 'In general, these results were positive; however additional efforts are needed to bring all the centers into full compliance with procurement policies and regulations.'

In response to these audits, GSA official said they are expanding the Get It Right campaign to include more training for FTS and Defense Department contracting personnel, said David Drabkin, GSA's deputy chief acquisition officer.

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