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Highlights

Government purchase cards have streamlined the process of acquiring goods and services by allowing employees to purchase directly from merchants rather than going through the regular procurement process. The government spent $13.8 billion using purchase cards in fiscal year 2001. However, the government does not know how purchase card spending impacts small businesses and other socioeconomic categories, such as woman-owned small businesses, and small disadvantaged businesses. Because of these uncertainties, the General Services Administration (GSA), which administers the purchase card program, has begun to collect socioeconomic data on merchants doing business with the federal government through purchase cards. This report assesses GSA's efforts and identifies the challenges to collecting and reporting this data.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
General Services Administration While the government faces a number of challenges in collecting socioeconomic data on all purchase card merchants, there is an opportunity to improve the available data. Therefore, in order to strengthen the ongoing efforts, the Administrator of GSA should clarify the socioeconomic information that banks and payment card associations are asked to report.
Closed - Implemented
Agency has finalized clarification of socioeconomic information that the banks are asked to report. As of June 17, 2003, contract modifications have been sent to the banks for signatures. Execution of the contracts is forthcoming.
General Services Administration While the government faces a number of challenges in collecting socioeconomic data on all purchase card merchants, there is an opportunity to improve the available data. Therefore, in order to strengthen the ongoing efforts, the Administrator of GSA should specify a rigorous, disciplined approach to identifying and using appropriate information sources for the socioeconomic data and ensure the participants agree to it.
Closed - Implemented
Agency has specified an approach to identifying and using appropriate information sources for the socioeconomic data and has consulted with participants to obtain agreement. Contract modifications were sent to banks on June 17, 2003. Execution of the modifications is forthcoming.
General Services Administration While the government faces a number of challenges in collecting socioeconomic data on all purchase card merchants, there is an opportunity to improve the available data. Therefore, in order to strengthen the ongoing efforts, the Administrator of GSA should conduct periodic assessments to verify that they are interpreting and reporting data consistently.
Closed - Implemented
In 2005, GSA was receiving quarterly reports from the GSA SmartPay banks. GSA realized that there was a problem with the data because of a mismatch with data fields between the banks and the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation, which forwards the reports to GSA. GSA initiated meetings with the banks and other parties to work out the problem. A modification resulted and GSA is making quarterly assessments of the ongoing activity.

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