This week “Thought No. 4” of the Thirteen Thoughts for 2013: Contract duplication. . . .hitting the delete button. The timing could not better for addressing this thought!
Yesterday the Government Accountability Office (GAO) removed the High Risk Designation from “Management of Interagency Contracting.” GAO cited improvements in: (1) continued progress made by agencies in addressing identified deficiencies; (2) establishment of additional management controls; (3) creation of a policy framework for establishing new interagency contracts; and (4) steps taken to address the need for better data on these contracts. This is a wonderful development! It took a sustained, disciplined effort across the procurement community to address the concerns identified by GAO.
From a strategic acquisition perspective, removal of interagency contracting from the high-risk list furthers the goal of reducing contract duplication. Contract duplication, multiple contracts across government for the same or similar services, increases transaction and administrative costs to government, industry and the American taxpayer. At a time of fiscal challenge and budget restraint, we can longer afford unnecessary, costly contract duplication.
Last year the Coalition conducted a survey of our members regarding the costs associated with contract duplication. The results of the survey can be found here. The Coalition provided the results with further analysis and comment to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, the Office of Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy (DPAP) and GSA’s Office of the Chief Acquisition Officer. The survey results highlighted the increased costs (contract administration, bid and proposal, overhead) to contractors due to contract duplication. Similar increased costs are also borne by the government. Ultimately the American taxpayer pays more than necessary due to contract duplication!
The fundamental purpose of interagency contracting is to leverage acquisition resources (personnel, budget) by reducing the need for multiple contracts and streamlining the competition for requirements at the order level. The GSA Schedules, IT GWACs, Networx, travel contracts, credit card and fleet contracts are examples of government frameworks that allow customer agencies to quickly compete and award orders for specific requirements. At their core, these interagency contracting programs provide an efficient, effective framework for customer agencies and contractors to compete and conduct business.
Removing interagency contracting from the high-risk list eliminates a significant potential rationale/basis for agency choosing to create its own contract vehicle rather than using an interagency contract. Of course, agencies must make good business decisions regarding acquisition plans and strategies, including the choice of contract. However, the removal of interagency contracting from the high-risk list, eliminates a potential complicating factor or concern as agencies develop acquisition plans and look at contracting options to meet their needs. Removal from the high risk list should also be reflected in current management policies and procedures governing the internal agency decision making for use of interagency contracting. Guidance should be simplified to better assist contracting officers and program managers. The Coalition applauds DPAP for embarking on such an effort.
In sum, removal of interagency contracting from the high-risk list provides a new point of departure or “reset” regarding contract duplication. It provides the procurement community with a wonderful opportunity to work together to press the “delete button” on new and current duplicative contracts that increase costs for government, industry and the American taxpayer. The Coalition looks forward to working with all stakeholders to keep pushing the delete button on this important issue.