Federal Contracting:

Weaknesses Exist in NSF's Process for Awarding Contracts

RCED-94-31: Published: Jan 31, 1994. Publicly Released: Mar 1, 1994.

Contact:

Victor S. Rezendes
(202) 512-6082
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the National Science Foundation's (NSF) competitive and noncompetitive procurement process, focusing on whether NSF: (1) solicitations clearly describe contract requirements; (2) evaluates bids in accordance with solicitation evaluation criteria; and (3) properly justifies procuring services on a sole-source basis.

GAO found that: (1) there were one or more weaknesses in the procurement process for 6 out of 10 NSF competitive contracts reviewed; (2) NSF did not clearly describe to bidders the contract requirements, inform bidders of the bid evaluation factors, or conduct proper bid evaluations; (3) NSF bid evaluations were faulty because it changed or improperly scored the evaluation factors during the evaluation process; (4) NSF contracting weaknesses can be attributed to its overall lack of attention to contract administration, inadequate internal oversight of the contract award process, and inadequate guidance for preparing solicitations and evaluating bids; (5) weaknesses also exist in the NSF noncompetitive procurement process; and (6) although federal contracting legislation allows NSF to obtain services on a sole-source basis, NSF has not provided the required written justification for its sole-source procurements or stated what actions it plans to take to remove obstacles to future competition.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Director, NSF, should ensure that contract personnel comply with existing requirements to determine if other offerers are available before awarding contracts on a sole-source basis and document the efforts taken to do so.

    Agency Affected: National Science Foundation

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NSF revised its procurement guidance to emphasize the existing Competition in Contracting Act requirement that all procurements should be made on a competitive basis to the extent practicable. The guidance also makes reference to the relevant sections of the Federal Acquisition Regulation that identify situations where limited competition is allowed and stresses compliance with the requirement to determine if other sources are available. Additionally, the guidance specifically requires the contracting officer to prepare a written justification when limited competition is allowed; and requires the contracting officer and cognizant program officer to certify that the justification is accurate.

    Recommendation: To further improve NSF contracting activities, the Director, NSF, should develop detailed guidance for contracting officers to use in ensuring that evaluation criteria are scored properly.

    Agency Affected: National Science Foundation

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NSF amended its procurement guidance to require contracting officers to ensure that contract proposals are scored properly and that the evaluation panels resolve inconsistencies in evaluations of contract proposals. The amended guidance also requires the use of evaluation factors in evaluating contract proposals that are identical to the factors used in soliciting proposals.

    Recommendation: To further improve NSF contracting activities, the Director, NSF, should develop detailed guidance for program and contracting personnel to use in explaining the relative importance of evaluation factors in solicitations.

    Agency Affected: National Science Foundation

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NSF amended its procurement guidance to require the disclosure of evaluation factors that are predominant or of greater relative importance, through the use of weights or relative weight descriptions, when soliciting contract proposals.

    Recommendation: To further improve NSF contracting activities, the Director, NSF, should develop detailed guidance for program officials to use in preparing statements of work, including a description of the type of information the statements of work should provide and examples of weaknesses to avoid.

    Agency Affected: National Science Foundation

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NSF's revised guidance on acquisition activities and procedures added guidelines for preparing statements of work. The guidelines include a description of items that should be addressed in the statement of work and provide examples of weaknesses to avoid.

    Recommendation: The Director, NSF, should ensure that planned efforts to remove obstacles to future competition for sole-source procurements are documented as required.

    Agency Affected: National Science Foundation

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The revised guidance emphasizes that NSF will assure compliance with the requirement to document planned efforts to remove obstacles, if any exist, to future competition.

    Aug 25, 2014

    Aug 7, 2014

    Jul 30, 2014

    Jul 29, 2014

    Jul 22, 2014

    Jun 17, 2014

    Jun 11, 2014

    Jun 10, 2014

    May 28, 2014

    Looking for more? Browse all our products here