GSA takes issue with critical purchasing report

General Services Administration officials are disputing a draft Defense Department inspector general report that finds fault with how DOD acquires services with GSA.

Although the report recommends that the two agencies continue working together, GSA officials challenged many of the conclusions and are upset that the draft made it into the public domain.

'I am absolutely stunned by the lack of professionalism showed by certain members of the DOD IG team,' said GSA administrator Lurita Doan, who expressed surprise that the draft report was released while the analysis is continuing.

Doan and GSA Federal Acquisition Service commissioner Jim Williams 'submitted independent letters to DOD about the sheer number of inaccuracies in the report,' Doan said. 'We will continue to work with DOD to resolve these issues as we move forward,' she added.

A Defense IG spokesman had no comment on Doan's remarks, but said that IG Terry McKinney spoke about the report at panel discussions which were not intended to be public.

Still, the IG 'stands by the findings and conclusions of our draft audit report,' the spokesman said. 'To date, nothing has been provided to us to change our position.'

The draft report was mandated in the fiscal 2005 National Defense Authorization Act, which required both GSA and DOD inspectors general to reexamine the policies, procedures and internal controls through GSA's Client Support Centers. The mandate came after Defense IG reports found considerable numbers of contracting irregularities over the past several years, leading GSA to establish its 'Get it Right' program.

GSA IG officials told Congress earlier this year that the agency has made enough progress to keep DOD as a customer.

The Defense IG reviewed 56 of approximately 18,960 purchases GSA made on behalf of the department during fiscal 2005. Fifty-five of those purchases, the report said, 'were either hastily planned or improperly executed or funded.'

Specifically, the report found:
  • DOD organizations 'lacked acquisition planning' on 55 purchases
  • DOD and GSA 'did not have adequate interagency agreements' on 54 purchases
  • Of 14 sole-source contracts reviewed, GSA 'did not provide adequate justification' for six such awards
  • DOD did not develop and implement adequate quality assurance surveillance plans on 42 purchases
  • Twelve purchases may have violated the Anti-deficiency Act
  • DOD 'did not maintain an audit trail of the funds used' to make eleven of the purchases.

While the report states that DOD should continue doing business with GSA, it said improvements must be made in both agencies.

'GSA contracting officials and DOD requiring activity personnel showed improvement with [Federal Acquisition Regulation] and appropriations law compliance when making purchases through GSA,' the report said. 'However, DOD organizations continued to improperly use government funds by not having a bona fide need in the year of the appropriation, or funding the purchase with the incorrect appropriation. In addition, DOD contracting officials did not participate in preliminary acquisition planning, which would assist in preventing the improper use of government funds and ensure DOD purchases made through GSA are in the best interest of the government.

'Furthermore, GSA contracting officials must comply with FAR sole-source requirements when limiting full and open competition,' the report continued. 'Contracts that are not fully competed must adequately explain why FAR exceptions are allowed for the purchase.'

In comments on the draft, Jim Williams, commissioner of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, said the report analyzed several purchases that were outside the time frame specified in the legislation and does not account for the improvements resulting from the 'Get it Right' program.

'This is important to understand, since these actions preceded current DOD and GSA guidance and the steps GSA undertook to bring our performance into compliance in those areas where we had [previously] found that we were out of compliance,' Williams said. 'Given the total universe of actions available for sampling, we think that this report ' demonstrates that GSA and DOD made significant improvements since the first problems were uncovered over three years ago.'

Among the report's findings, GSA took issue with the 12 potential anti-deficiency violations, claiming that in many cases, the acquisitions were performed in the manner that DOD wanted.

Also, for the six questionable sole-source awards, two were made outside the audit time frame, Williams said, and the others were awarded ethically.

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