Government Operations:

Improvements Needed to the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation

GAO-05-960R: Published: Sep 27, 2005. Publicly Released: Sep 27, 2005.

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Federal government purchases of goods and services have grown to more than $300 billion annually. The Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG) is the only governmentwide system for obtaining information on how these funds are being spent. The FPDS-NG was intended to improve the prior FPDS system in several ways, including providing more timely and accurate data; enabling users to generate their own reports; and providing easier user access to data. The system was developed by Global Computer Enterprises, Inc., (GCE) under contract with the General Services Administration (GSA). The FPDS-NG is currently in a transition period, which is scheduled to end by October 2005. We initiated a review to assess the extent to which FPDS-NG has demonstrated the intended improvements, and to determine whether the FPDS-NG is currently capable of collecting and reporting on interagency contracting data. We reviewed documents related to FPDS-NG; held discussions with officials from GSA, GCE, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and with private sector and government users. We also made numerous attempts to use the system to generate reports.

Our review raised concerns regarding whether the FPDS-NG has achieved its intended improvements. The following examples reflect our key areas of concern regarding the new system. Timeliness and accuracy of data: Interviews with several users indicate a lack of confidence in the system's ability to provide timely and accurate data. Ease of use and access to data: The FPDS-NG Web site provides users the ability to generate reports at any time through standard report templates or an "ad hoc" reporting tool. Although GAO analysts attended contractor-provided training on these reporting tools, we did not find either easy to use. Over the last decade, Congress has repeatedly called for DOD to report on certain types of interagency contracting and financial data. Recently, the Senate Armed Services Committee conveyed its expectation that DOD business systems have the capability to track basic information about interagency transactions. This information includes the following: number and dollar value of transactions under each interagency contracting vehicle; the status of open transactions; the status of funds under interagency transactions (including appropriation type and year, and fund balance received, obligated, expended, and available); and the amount of any funds returned or to be returned to DOD or to the Department of the Treasury. DOD officials have indicated that they plan to use FPDS-NG to track interagency contracting data and to request changes to the system to capture more specific information in this regard. GSA documentation indicates that the vision for FPDS-NG included system capability that was flexible enough to change as new data collection needs arose, such as those related to interagency contracting activities. GSA officials told us that some interagency contracting data are available in FPDS-NG. However, our efforts to obtain data and to generate reports on interagency contracting transactions were unsuccessful. GSA officials also expressed concerns that FPDS-NG may not be the appropriate system to collect certain types of data on interagency transactions. Given these circumstances, it is unclear whether FPDS-NG has the flexibility to address these new data needs and whether it is the appropriate system for this purpose.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: In order to help achieve the intended improvements for FPDS-NG, the Director of OMB should work with DOD and any other agencies that have not yet moved to an electronic data submission environment to connect to FPDS-NG via contract writing systems as soon as possible, and provide confirmation of agencies' review and verification of the accuracy and completeness of their data in FPDS-NG.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Office of Management and Budget issued a memo on August 25, 2004, which directed agencies to identify and allocate the necessary funds to ensure that their contract writing systems were capable of electronic transfer of information directly to the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG) by the end of FY 2005. The memo also required agencies that had not yet moved to an automated contract writing system to submit a plan outlining the necessary steps to move to such a system and to identify those existing systems that needed to be modified to become interoperable with FPDS-NG. According to the FPDS-NG Program Director, procurement data can be transferred electronically to FPDS-NG in one of two ways: through a contract writing system or web services. The FPDS-NG Program Director submitted a list in July 2008 of agencies that had contract writing systems in place that were capable of electronic transfer of data directly to FPDS-NG. This list included 22 out of the 24 Chief Financial Officers Act agencies. The remaining two CFO Act agencies, General Services Administration and the Office of Personnel Management, utilize web services to electronically transfer data to FPDS-NG. CFO Act agencies accounted for 99.7 percent of all government obligations in FY 2007. The FPDS-NG Program Director also submitted a list in July 2008 that documented that all 24 CFO Act agencies had reviewed and verified the accuracy and completeness of their FPDS-NG data for FY 2007. Agencies are required to certify the completeness of their FPDS-NG data annually.

    Recommendation: In order to help achieve the intended improvements for FPDS-NG, the Director of OMB should develop a plan to improve ease of use and access to data, including report generation, governmentwide reporting needs, and accessing raw data through more efficient means.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The FPDS-NG Program Director reported that users could access large quantities of raw procurement data using XML. GAO's FPDS-NG specialist confirmed this statement and added the FPDS-NG program office had taken steps to improve the quality of its archived files. For example, she reported the program office had cut down on the number of archived files. She said there was currently only one archived folder (containing two files) for each agency for a particular fiscal year.

    Recommendation: In order to help achieve the intended improvements for FPDS-NG, the Director of OMB should determine whether the FPDS-NG currently has the capability to collect and report on interagency contracting data and whether it is the appropriate system to capture this data in the future.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Office of Management and Budget established an Interagency Acquisition Working Group in November 2005 to improve the management and use of interagency contracts. One of the group's tasks was to identify interagency contracts across the government, including multi-agency and government-wide acquisition contracts. The information collected represented a snapshot from FY 2006. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) has continued to work with the General Services Administration and other agencies to institutionalize the collection and reporting of interagency contracting data in FPDS-NG. In an effort to facilitate the identification of interagency contracts, the FPDS-NG Program Director and a Procurement Policy Analyst at OFPP reported that OFPP made the determination that the Interagency Contract Directory (ICD) database would be used to display information on these contracts. According to the FPDS-NG Program Director, the ICD database will pull information on interagency contracts from existing data fields in FPDS-NG. The FPDS-NG Program Director reported the ICD database would be operational as of October 2008.

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