Foreign Assistance:

AID Can Improve Its Management of Overseas Contracting

NSIAD-91-31: Published: Oct 5, 1990. Publicly Released: Oct 5, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Agency for International Development's (AID) contract and procurement system, focusing on AID: (1) overseas contracts that were subject to full and open competition requirements; and (2) ability to plan and effectively manage its procurement of goods and services.

GAO found that: (1) the average award time for full and open competition was 6 months or less at 5 missions, and 8 and 9 months at 2 missions; (2) according to the AID competition advocate, the 6- to 9-month time frame could disrupt project implementation if project designers did not properly plan and realistically schedule procurements; (3) inadequate procurement planning impeded the overseas contracting process; (4) AID often did not prepare procurement plans during project design or did not provide sufficient detail; (5) several factors contributed to poor planning, including inadequate baseline data, agencywide requirements, training, and officer participation; and (6) the procurement organizational structure at AID overseas missions divided responsibilities between contracting and program offices, which resulted in nonprofessionals making key procurement decisions during project design and implementation and inadequate control and oversight over acquisitions.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A system has been put in place for the Procurement Executive to review and comment on the performance ratings of overseas contracting offices.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should enhance the independence of overseas contracting officers by requiring that annual performance ratings of overseas contracting officers be reviewed and approved by the agency's procurement executive.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As an alternative to placing host country and direct contracting responsibilities under one office, AID had issued guidance requiring contracting officer involvement in host country contracts. AID has now issued a directive requiring that contract officers report to the Mission or Deputy Mission Director.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should improve procurement management by: (1) placing host country and direct contracting responsibilities within one office; and (2) requiring that the senior contracting officer at overseas missions report to the deputy mission director.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID is developing new training courses that will include procurement planning as a key element. A contract was awarded in May 1993 and pilot courses were scheduled to begin in October 1993.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should strengthen mission procurement planning by ensuring that project officers and mission management receive procurement-related training necessary to effectively design and manage programs.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Administrator has developed an Advanced Procurement Planning System that provides a standard format for procurement planning. AID has developed a business area analysis model of the procurement function, including determining timelines, that will assist the agency in its efforts to streamline and simplify the process.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should strengthen mission procurement planning by developing a procurement planning model for overseas operations, which includes the development of baseline data on the actual time required for major procurement actions and standard formats for procurement plans.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AID has issued guidance requiring that the contracting officer participate in the project review committee whenever procurement planning is involved.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should strengthen mission procurement planning by requiring contracting officer clearance of project procurement plans.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In fiscal year 1994, an Advanced Procurement Planning System was established for all Washington, D.C., contracting actions. This system is now in the process of being implemented worldwide.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should strengthen mission procurement planning by establishing clear requirements for procurement planning during project design and implementation.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The indexing system for the Federal Acquisition Regulation was greatly improved in July 1990 and AID is continually updating and improving its handbook indexing system. AID has also issued specific guidance to the missions regarding follow-on contracts.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should improve procurement guidance for the missions by, at a minimum, developing a better index for AID handbooks and other policy guidance that lists procurement topics and cites the specific sources that deal with the topic. In addition, specific guidance should be provided to the missions identifying: (1) when follow-on work is justified without recompetition; and (2) the procedures that should be followed when planning the original contract for a possible extension or follow-on work.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

 

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