OMB report leads union to question why feds can't improve without A-76 competitions

OMB report leads union to question why feds can't improve without A-76 competitions

Federal employees won 91 percent of all competitions with the private sector for agency commercial positions in fiscal 2004, according to the most recent report from the Office of Management and Budget to Congress on competitive sourcing.

The administration contends that feds are getting better at competing with the private sector and are not disadvantaged by the 2003 revision to OMB Circular A-76, which sets out the rules under which public-private competitions are held.

But the largest federal employee union is questioning why the administration is pursuing A-76 competitions at all. The American Federation of Government Employees would like to see federal employees improve their business processes on their own without the threat of losing the work to the private sector.

'Agencies should be given the chance to re-engineer internally and avoid the costs and controversies associated with the privatization reviews,' said John Threlkeld, a legislative representative for AFGE. 'This administration has been in charge for four years, and they like to brag about how they are improving the management of government. But if their managers cannot be motivated to improve government without the threat of privatization reviews, then there is something wrong with the way they are managing the federal government.'

The administration found agencies completed 217 competitions in 2004'446 fewer than in 2003'and saved $285 million. Officials predict that over the next five years, agencies will save about $1.4 billion because of the 2004 competitions.

The report also found the average size of the competitions rose to 58 employees from 27 in 2003 and the savings per employee increased by 12 percent to $22,000.

Congress requires an annual report on A-76 competitions. This is the second year OMB has found significant savings and employee success at competitive sourcing'one of the five President's Management Agenda items.

But Threlkeld said OMB's numbers are suspect.

'These projected costs have not been realized and may never be,' he said. 'The appropriators we've talked to about privatization reviews said they see money shift from one part of the organization to the other, but the overall costs rarely diminish.'

AFGE also would like to see employees given the opportunity to compete for outsourced work or bring new work in-house.

'We agree that government should be run more efficiently, but management should work with employees to re-engineer internally,' Threlkeld said. 'Privatization studies should be used for exceptional circumstances when it can be shown that re-engineering cannot provide savings.'

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