Procurement Reform:

How Selected Countries Perform Certain GSA Activities

GGD-99-109: Published: Jul 15, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 18, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on how foreign governments perform procurement activities that in the United States fall under the responsibility of the General Services Administration's Federal Supply Service (FSS) and Federal Technology Service (FTS).

GAO noted that: (1) none of the countries had organizations that completely mirrored FSS and FTS; (2) Canada and the United Kingdom (UK) had the closest models in that they had organizations available to assist agencies in the procurement of supplies, vehicles, telecommunications, and information technology (IT); (3) however, these organizations had different features from those of FSS and FTS; (4) the two organizations in the UK differed from FSS and FTS because they were given more flexibility than traditional government departments in the personnel and financial areas; (5) Australia and New Zealand had very different models from the United States; (6) Australia had only an organization that performed activities similar to those of FTS, and its role in assisting agencies with the acquisition of IT systems and related services was minor; (7) New Zealand had no government organizations that performed activities similar to those of FSS and FTS because it sold its central procurement agency to the private sector several years ago; (8) this private sector business assisted government agencies with the procurement of supplies and did business only with the government; (9) GAO's analysis also showed that there were similarities and differences in the programs and policies these countries used in the procurement of supplies compared to those of FSS and FTS; (10) according to officials in these countries, procurement reform evolved over a number of years and was primarily influenced by a desire to rely more on the private sector to perform activities of a business nature so that government could operate more efficiently, improve its services, and focus on its core mission; (11) it is important to recognize that such factors as differences in political and economic environments, the role of social objectives in the procurement process, and the volume of contracting activity would have to be considered in a discussion of whether these approaches had applicability to FSS and FTS operations in the United States; (12) furthermore, some reforms were very recent, and performance data on the effectiveness of the various reforms were generally unavailable or were in the early stages of development; (13) consequently, GAO could not, from an overall perspective, gauge how well these reforms were working; and (14) nonetheless, officials GAO interviewed who were end-users of the procurement organizations and policies GAO observed said they were generally satisfied with the reforms and believed their governments were operating more efficiently than under old policies.

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