Establishing New Federal Food-Buying Procedures Would Help Eliminate Unnecessary Special Examinations

RCED-84-150: Published: Sep 24, 1984. Publicly Released: Sep 24, 1984.

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GAO reviewed federal practices for accepting food purchases to determine if federal costs could be decreased by reducing the number of special examinations necessary to ensure the quality of accepted products.

GAO found that the direct cost of certification services was $18 million in fiscal year 1982. Although the Department of Agriculture has instructed other federal agencies to waive certification when it is not cost effective, some agencies routinely require certification because federal buying agencies do not have procedures for weighing the costs and benefits of certification. Some agencies believe that certification is necessary because suppliers who have previously supplied defective products cannot be excluded from competition for food procurements, but GAO noted that agencies may consider past performance in determining suppliers' responsibility. GAO also found that: (1) many certifications duplicate industry quality control efforts or required federal inspections; and (2) certification can be extremely costly because the costs of increased production time brought on by unnecessary certification are passed on to the government by suppliers. GAO noted that the costs of certification of one purchase of ground beef amounted to 9.3 percent of the total value of the purchase.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USDA has revised some certification requirements for meat and poultry purchases and is evaluating each of its buying programs to reduce certification costs.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Defense and the Administrator of Veterans Affairs should direct their respective food-buying agencies to establish procedures which would require that the costs and benefits of certification be weighed before deciding to require that specific food purchases be certified. To determine the cost of certification which may be required for a specific food purchase, the buying agency should request suppliers to identify the food price with and without the cost of certification and inform prospective suppliers that certification costs may be waived for qualifying suppliers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD is studying the feasibility of a method for obtaining bids with and without certification costs included.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Defense and the Administrator of Veterans Affairs should direct their respective food-buying agencies to establish procedures which would require that the costs and benefits of certification be weighed before deciding to require that specific food purchases be certified. To determine the cost of certification which may be required for a specific food purchase, the buying agency should request suppliers to identify the food price with and without the cost of certification and inform prospective suppliers that certification costs may be waived for qualifying suppliers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA has issued procedures to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Defense and the Administrator of Veterans Affairs should direct their respective food-buying agencies to establish procedures which would require that the costs and benefits of certification be weighed before deciding to require that specific food purchases be certified. To determine the cost of certification which may be required for a specific food purchase, the buying agency should request suppliers to identify the food price with and without the cost of certification and inform prospective suppliers that certification costs may be waived for qualifying suppliers.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USDA is using records of performance from FSIS in evaluating suppliers' qualifications. USDA stated that it had not found any FDA information which would be helpful.

    Recommendation: To assist buyers in weighing the benefits of certification, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Defense and the Administrator of Veterans Affairs should direct their buying agencies to establish procedures for obtaining available information on suppliers' qualifications and past records of performance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD stated that it did not agree with this recommendation because neither FDA nor FSIS presently has the capability to provide meaningful information on the ultimate qualification of suppliers to comply with DOD contract requirements.

    Recommendation: To assist buyers in weighing the benefits of certification, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Defense and the Administrator of Veterans Affairs should direct their buying agencies to establish procedures for obtaining available information on suppliers' qualifications and past records of performance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA has issued procedures to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To assist buyers in weighing the benefits of certification, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Defense and the Administrator of Veterans Affairs should direct their buying agencies to establish procedures for obtaining available information on suppliers' qualifications and past records of performance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USDA has revised its purchase specifications to reduce certification requirements and place greater reliance on the safety inspections performed by FSIS. USDA has also acted to implement the task force's recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Agricultural Marketing Service to recognize existing safety and quality control systems and to review and revise its certification procedures for meat and poultry products to: (1) eliminate certification procedures that duplicate existing safety inspection procedures; (2) reduce certification effort where FSIS has found that the suppliers' quality control systems provide adequate assurance of product quality; and (3) reconsider the recommendations included in the report on the task force review of meat grading and certification control methods and procedures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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