GAO finds faults with new federal procurement-tracking system

A new system that keeps track of the more than $300 billion spent annually by the government for goods and services may not be achieving the efficiencies and accuracy intended, according to government auditors.

In a letter today to Office of Management and Budget director Joshua Bolten, the Government Accountability Office recommended improvements be made to the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG) before its complete rollout. The system's transitional period ends in October.

'[W]e have concerns regarding whether the new system has achieved the intended improvements in the areas of timeliness and accuracy of data, as well as the ease of use and access to data,' the letter said. 'We also are concerned as to whether the FPDS-NG system has the flexibility to capture data on interagency contracting transactions.'

FPDS collects and develops information about federal procurement contracts. The General Services Administration began administering the program in 1982, and in 2000 began mulling ways to modernize it.

In April 2003, Global Computer Enterprises Inc. of Gaithersburg, Md., was awarded a contract by GSA to develop the FPDS-NG, which became publicly available in December 2004.

In its report, GAO said that thus far the new system has fallen short of expectations. 'Interviews with several users indicate a lack of confidence in the system's ability to provide timely and accurate data,' the letter said.

GAO also said data accessibility needs improvement. 'The FPDS-NG Web site provides users [with] the ability to generate reports at any time through standard report templates or an ad hoc reporting tool,' according to the letter. 'Although GAO analysts attended contractor-provided training on these reporting tools, we did not find either easy to use. We repeatedly encountered significant performance problems, including system time-outs and delays, when trying to generate both kinds of reports.'

GAO reported that GSA and OMB officials concurred with their findings and will take the letter into consideration. GSA said additional reports and improved capability are planned for fiscal 2006, the letter added.


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