Information Technology:

Selected Federal Agencies Need to Take Additional Actions to Reduce Contract Duplication

GAO-20-567: Published: Sep 30, 2020. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 2020.

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Carol C. Harris
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harriscc@gao.gov

 

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The federal government spends over $90 billion a year on information technology. Earlier, we found that agencies sometimes award contracts for duplicative IT services—like awarding 2 contracts to the same vendor for the same services. Eliminating duplication could save money.

Agencies could help reduce duplication by

Using existing contracts for categories of similar goods and services—a.k.a. category management—as the Office of Management and Budget suggests

Analyzing IT spending to find duplication

The 7 agencies we reviewed fully or partially took these and other steps. We made 20 recommendations aimed at reducing IT contract duplication.

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Additional Materials:

Contact:

Carol C. Harris
(202) 512-4456
harriscc@gao.gov

 

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

What GAO Found

Selected agencies varied in their efforts to implement five Office of Management and Budget (OMB) category management activities that contribute to preventing, identifying, and reducing duplicative information technology (IT) contracts. For example, most of the seven selected agencies had fully implemented the activities associated with identifying a Senior Accountable Official and training their workforces. In contrast, about half the agencies had fully implemented the activity associated with sharing contract information (see figure). Agencies cited several reasons for their varied implementation, including that they were still defining how to best integrate category management into the agency.

Extent to Which Seven Selected Federal Agencies Implemented Five Category Management Activities That Contribute to Reducing Information Technology (IT) Contract Duplication

Extent to Which Seven Selected Federal Agencies Implemented Five Category Management Activities That Contribute to Reducing Information Technology (IT) Contract Duplication

aThis refers to spending on contracts that are not aligned with the Office of Management and Budget's criteria for agency-wide, multi-agency or government-wide, and “Best in Class” contracts.

bThis activity applies to sharing information with officials for agency-wide, government-wide, and “Best in Class” IT contracts, that are owned by the agency. Since nearly all of the Department of State's IT contracts were owned by other agencies, GAO determined that this activity was not applicable.

Four of the seven agencies had fully or partially implemented the activity to regularly use a spend analysis to identify potential contract duplication. Each of these four agencies had fully implemented the activity to develop and implement strategies to address the identified duplication, which, according to agency officials, resulted in millions of dollars in savings. The remaining three agencies had not implemented either of the two spend analysis activities. Until agencies ensure that their efforts to prevent, identify, and reduce duplicative IT contracts are fully aligned with category management principles and practices, and are informed by spend analyses, they will be at increased risk of wasteful spending. In addition, they will likely miss opportunities to identify and realize savings of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.

Why GAO Did This Study

Given that the federal government spends over $90 billion annually on IT, it is important that agencies avoid spending on duplicative contracts. Such duplication can occur, for example, when an agency awards two or more contracts to the same vendor for the same services. Category management—in which spending is managed by categories such as IT—and analyses of agency spending on products and services (called spend analyses) have been recognized as effective practices for identifying duplicative contracts.

GAO was asked to review agencies' efforts to reduce IT contract duplication. GAO determined the extent to which (1) selected agencies' efforts to prevent, identify, and reduce duplicative or wasteful IT contracts were consistent with OMB guidance; and (2) these efforts were informed by spend analyses.

GAO compared relevant documentation from seven federal agencies with the most IT spending and new contracts to five activities identified in OMB guidance and two spend analyses activities identified in guidance. GAO rated each agency as having fully, partially, or not implemented each activity.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making 20 recommendations to six agencies to fully implement the category management and spend analyses activities. The agencies generally concurred. Two agencies provided additional evidence that led GAO to withdraw one recommendation and modify one other.

For more information, contact Carol C. Harris at (202) 512-4456 or harriscc@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to reduce unaligned IT spending, by performing an analysis of alternatives to justify the agency's unaligned IT contracts. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to develop and implement vendor management strategies, by implementing the strategies it had developed. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to share prices paid, terms, and conditions for purchased IT goods and services. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the agency finishes implementing its process to analyze IT contract data. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the agency develops and implements strategies to address duplication identified through the use of spend analyses. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to reduce unaligned IT spending. (Recommendation 6)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the agency documents its annual spend analyses used to identify opportunities to reduce IT contract duplication. (Recommendation 7)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure that the agency uses a spend analysis on a regular basis to identify IT contract duplication. (Recommendation 8)

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  9. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should ensure that the Department of Justice fully implements the category management activity to reduce unaligned IT spending, by performing an analysis of alternatives to justify the agency's unaligned IT contracts. (Recommendation 9)

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  10. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should ensure that the Department of Justice fully implements the category management activity to share prices paid, terms and conditions for purchased IT goods and services. (Recommendation 10)

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  11. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should ensure that the Department of Justice fully implements the category management activity to engage the workforce in training regarding category management principles and practices, by tracking its workforce's attendance in the training. (Recommendation 11)

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  12. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should ensure that the Department of Justice uses a spend analysis to identify opportunities to reduce IT contract duplication. (Recommendation 12)

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  13. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should ensure that the Department of Justice develops and implements strategies to address duplication identified through the use of spend analyses. (Recommendation 13)

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  14. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to develop and implement vendor relationship management strategies, by executing its vendor management plan. (Recommendation 14)

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  15. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to develop processes and policies for implementing the agency's category management efforts. (Recommendation 15)

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  16. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to reduce unaligned IT spending, by performing an analysis of alternatives to justify the agency's unaligned IT contracts. (Recommendation 16)

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  17. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to develop and implement vendor relationship management strategies. (Recommendation 17)

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  18. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to share prices paid, terms and conditions for purchased IT goods and services. (Recommendation 18)

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  19. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency uses a spend analysis to identify opportunities to reduce IT contract duplication. (Recommendation 19)

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  20. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency develops and implements strategies to address duplication identified through the use of spend analyses. (Recommendation 20)

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

 

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