Federal Acquisition:

Oversight Plan Needed to Help Implement Acquisition Advisory Panel Recommendations

GAO-08-160: Published: Dec 20, 2007. Publicly Released: Jan 22, 2008.

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A growing portion of federal spending is related to buying services such as administrative, management, and information technology support. Services accounted for about 60 percent of total fiscal year 2006 procurement dollars. The Services Acquisition Reform Act (SARA) of 2003 established a Services Acquisition Advisory Panel to make recommendations for improving acquisition practices. In January 2007, the panel proposed 89 recommendations to improve federal acquisition practices. GAO was asked to determine how the panel recommendations compare to GAO's past work and identify how the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) expects the recommendations to be addressed. To do this, GAO analyzed the panel report and compared its findings and recommendations to GAO's past work and recommendations, obtained OFPP's views on how it expected the recommendations to be implemented, and reviewed proposed legislation in Congress to determine if legislative provisions had the potential to address some recommendations.

The SARA Panel, like GAO, has made numerous recommendations to improve federal government acquisition--from encouraging competition and adopting commercial practices to improving the accuracy and usefulness of procurement data. The recommendations in the SARA Panel report are largely consistent with GAO's past work and recommendations. The panel and GAO have both pointed out: the importance of a robust requirements definition process and the need for competition; the need to establish clear performance requirements, measurable performance standards, and a quality assurance plan to improve the use of performance-based contracting; the risks inherent in the use of interagency contracts due to their rapid growth and their improper management; stresses on the federal acquisition workforce and the need for a strategy to assess these workforce needs; concerns about the role of contractors engaged in acquisition program management and procurement traditionally performed by government employees and the proper roles of federal employees and contractor employees in a "blended" workforce; and the adverse effects of inaccurate and incomplete federal procurement data, such as not providing a sound basis for conducting procurement analyses. The panel also made recommendations that would change the guidance for awarding contracts to small businesses. While GAO's work has addressed some small business policy issues, GAO has not made recommendations that would change the guidance to be used for awarding contracts to small businesses. OFPP representatives told GAO that OFPP agrees with almost all of the panel recommendations and expected that most of the 89 panel recommendations would be implemented through one of the following means: congressional actions; changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulation; OFPP actions, such as issuing new or revised policy; and federal agency actions. OFPP has already acted on some SARA recommendations, while other actions are pending or under consideration. Milestones and reporting requirements are in place to help OFPP gauge the implementation status of some recommendations but not for others. Moreover, OFPP does not have a strategy or plan to allow it to exercise oversight and establish accountability for implementing all of the panel recommendations and to gauge their effect on federal acquisitions.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: On May 21, 2008, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) published its Guidelines for Assessing the Acquisition Function. OFPP officials advised us that the GAO recommendation is implemented because the Guidelines mirror GAO's "4 corners report" and provide a vehicle for the standardized assessment of agency progress on a broad range of acquisition initiatives, including those that implement the SARA Panel's recommendations. We believe the Guidelines only partially implement the GAO recommendation because the Guidelines do not include milestones and reporting requirements to gauge the status and results of implementing the Panel recommendations. OFPP officials advised us that they took a strategic approach in implementing the GAO recommendation, acknowledging that they did not establish metrics to document and track the implementation of each SARA Panel recommendation. OFPP officials maintained that they have established working groups that align with the 7 chapters in the SARA Panel report and that they are aware of exactly how the Panel's recommendations are being implemented. OFPP officials provided examples of recommendations that require legislative action, are still under OFPP review, are being addressed by FAR cases, and so on. We will leave this recommendation open and follow up next year to determine if the OFPP approach appears effective and if a new administration has taken or plans to take a different approach to overseeing the implementation of the recommendation that might be more in-line with our recommendation. On May 6, 2009, an OFPP official told us that no milestones and reporting requirements to gauge the status and results of implementing the Panel recommendations have been established, and that OFPP does not plan to develop an overall plan with milestones and metrics to gauge the status and success of implementing the panel recommendations as GAO recommended. Given this response, GAO will close out this recommendation and show it as not being implemented.

    Recommendation: To help ensure timely and effective implementation of SARA Panel recommendations, the Administrator of OFPP should develop an oversight strategy or plan, in conjunction with agency chief acquisition officers and senior procurement officials, that would include milestones and reporting requirements OFPP could use to gauge the status and results of implementing the panel recommendations.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget: Office of Federal Procurement Policy

 

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