USDA Procurement:

Information on Activities During Fiscal Year 1996

RCED-97-61R: Published: Feb 18, 1997. Publicly Released: Feb 18, 1997.

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1GAO provided information on the scope of the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) procurement activities and how those activities are carried out for each USDA contracting activity, focusing on: (1) the number and value of fiscal year (FY) 1996 procurement transactions; (2) the activity's organizational structure; (3) its FY 1996 cost of operation; (4) the regulations, policies, and procedures used in awarding and administering procurement actions; and (5) the audits or reviews that have been performed on their operations.

GAO noted that: (1) in FY 1996, USDA obligated about $1.5 billion through various procurement instruments; (2) USDA's contracting activities mirror the decentralized organization of USDA; (3) generally, one agency in a mission area performs contracting for all of the agencies making up that mission area; (4) this contracting activity usually consists of a headquarters office that is part of the agency's headquarters management/administration function and a number of field purchasing offices that report to the head of the field program activity, not the headquarters procurement office; (5) the cost of administering the procurement function within each agency is not available; (6) USDA generally does not break down the cost of its administrative activities such as procurement in such a way that the costs for that function can be identified; (7) each contracting activity is required to follow the requirements of the Federal Acquisition Regulation and USDA's own Agriculture Acquisition Regulation; (8) these regulations may also be supplemented with mission-specific policies and procedures generated by the contracting activity; (9) internal agency oversight within the contracting activities generally occurs through periodic reviews conducted at the individual purchasing offices; (10) in most cases, these reviews are performed by headquarters procurement personnel; (11) however, the agencies often do not formally track findings and recommendations to ensure that corrective action takes place; (12) in addition, USDA's Office of Inspector General has performed a number of contract-related reviews during the past 3 fiscal years; and (13) however, these reviews have focused on specific contracts and do not represent broad-based, regular oversight of the procurement function.

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