International Affairs:

Data Collection Under the International Agreement on Government Procurement Could Be More Accurate and Efficient

NSIAD-84-1: Published: Oct 25, 1983. Publicly Released: Oct 25, 1983.

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The trade data system, established to collect data on U.S. Government procurement activity under the international Agreement on Government Procurement, is not functioning properly. Since the development of a system capable of collecting precise data would be difficult, the system collects approximate information on procurements covered by the agreement. However, the system did not perform even up to its limited capabilities in developing the 1981 data. It developed information that significantly overvalued covered procurements and did not fully report other essential information. Given the limited resources available and the low priority the collecting agencies place on the trade data system, GAO suggested to agency officials that they could best improve the accuracy and efficiency of this data collection effort by abolishing the trade data system and using the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) to collect this data. The agencies have taken steps toward implementing this suggestion.

GAO found that the trade data system is capable of collecting only approximate individual contract information and assigns one product and one agency to each contract, regardless of the number of different products and agencies involved. Thus, the system does not precisely reflect procurement under the agreement. In addition, although agencies report information into the system on a contract basis, they are required to implement the agreement on a product-by-product basis, determining whether to use the agreement procedures or to apply Buy American price preferences. Reported contracts could also contain both purchases covered by the agreement and those not subject to it. Therefore, the data system may overvalue covered U.S. Government procurements. GAO found that, due to a lack of resources and data processing guidelines, the system did not perform using 1981 data. In addition, agencies did not have adequate incentives to properly collect and submit these data.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: An accomplishment report, A-NSIAD-84-22, approved April 2, 1984, shows nonmeasurable financial savings.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should direct the Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) to work with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Federal Procurement Data Center (FPDC), and the Federal Procurement Data System Policy Board to abolish the trade data system and use FPDS to collect the individual contract data, including the establishment of a separate system to collect data on covered contracts made with nonappropriated funds and the use of an alphabetic code to designate domestic source procurements.

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

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GSA officials initially told GAO that it planned to take action on this recommendation as part of an overhaul of the system used to collect information on federal procurements. However, the deadline for completion has continually slipped and officials are now reluctant to say when, if ever, it will act on this. Further GAO monitoring would not have any additional influence on GSA action.

    Recommendation: The Director of OMB should direct the Administrator of OFPP to work with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the FPDC, and the FPDS Policy Board to revise the current reporting regulations to give agencies unable to collect accurate letter report information guidance on acceptable methods for estimating this information.

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

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: An accomplishment report, A-NSIAD-84-22, approved April 2, 1984, shows nonmeasurable financial savings.

    Recommendation: The U.S. Trade Representative and the Administrator of General Services should take actions necessary to ensure that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and FPDC jointly develop user requirements for compiling trade data.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: An accomplishment report, A-NSIAD-84-22, approved April 2, 1984, describes the improved operations.

    Recommendation: The U.S. Trade Representative and the Administrator of General Services should take actions necessary to ensure that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and FPDC jointly develop user requirements for compiling trade data.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

 

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