Acquisition 2.0 will give ethics officers the heebie-jeebies

Home Forums Acquisitions Acquisition 2.0 will give ethics officers the heebie-jeebies

This topic contains 11 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Srinidhi Boray 7 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #99850

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    GovLoop has teamed up with Federal Computer Week (FCW) to stage “The FCW Challenge.” We’re asking six questions, then presenting our community’s feedback to thought leaders for a direct response. Comments may appear in a final series of articles in the June issue of FCW.

    Up for Debate:

    Acquisition 2.0 will give ethics officers the heebie-jeebies

    Using wikis and other collaboration tools for things like RFPs will invite more private sector involvement in purchasing decisions and will create unncessary conflicts of interest.

    What do you think?

    Liked this one? Well tell us your thoughts on some other questions.

  • #99872

    Srinidhi Boray
    Participant

    The idea is to enlargen the private participation. In fact some of the restrictive practice will reduce, while also increasing sampling when evaluating the RFPs.

  • #99870

    Amanda Blount
    Participant

    I don’t think so. I think the 2.0 world will help increase competition, and decrease cost. But, this all depends on how it is handled. The number one rule; what you do for one, you must do for all will be the driving force. As long as everyone is on the same sheet of music, and we still follow the same rules we do now when using the phone, fax, e-mail, or goodness, actually meeting face-to-face, 2.0 tools will be a huge help to us Aquisition folks.

  • #99868

    Amanda Blount
    Participant

    BTW – 2.0 tools is what is keeping us in business during the flood in TN. Everyone is everywhere, and we are using blackberries, internet, and texting to keep everyone in the loop. Without 2.0 tools we would have to shut the doors. No contracts would be able to happen during this mass flooding.

  • #99866

    Gerald David
    Participant

    The acquisition community is indeed overworked, understaffed and undergoing some loss of institutional knowledge. More active engagement with the private sector in the acquisition process – both contracting and program sides, particularly in the now very lengthy process leading up to final RFP would produce a dramatic improvement. I believe we’d see improvements in both the quality (more succinct requirements focused on the object) and timeliness of procurements. By engaging interested parties (dare I say crowd sourcing) once the objective is established, the process of “brainstorming” is enhanced by mixture of experience and ideas that I believe is simply not present inside and organization — private or public. We end up with a much richer pool of information from which to define requirements, we’ve sped the process along AND the acquiring office retains complete control of the outcome. Why not?

  • #99864

    Amanda… this is great to hear. I’d like to put this factoid in a 2.0 briefing for the future.

  • #99862

    Amanda Blount
    Participant

    Go for it. I happened to be in VA when the floods hit, but I have my computer up and running. I am using my cell phone to talk and text (communicate) with my other coworkers, and using e-mail to send contract information back and forth. Our boss, who has been deployed to work the floods, is also using his blackberry to also keep in contact with the office to make sure contracts are getting done. We had one employee who was physically cut off from work (the bridge was flooded), but her communications could still work, and she continued to work from home. We had another employee who was able to make it into the office and is actually putting everything together. These examples cover just a few of the employees. As the flood waters go down, things are getting back to normal, but for a few days Mother Nature thought she had our Contracting Office shut down. HA! If we had to, we could have all jumped on Skype to have meetings, and used free private groups already on the internet to handle non-classified projects. We are Contracting, nothing shuts us down. If we have to, we can always go manual.

  • #99860

    Keith Moore
    Participant

    Open Government TV looks forward to the opportunity to address this subject.

  • #99858

    David Tallan
    Participant

    I certainly agree with the proposition that “Acquisition 2.0 will give ethics officers the heebie-jeebies.” Just about anything 2.0 will give lots of people (especially those concerned with risk and controllership) the heebie-jeebies.

    But I think that “Acquisition 2.0” also gives opportunities to mitigate those risks and that the residual risk may be lower than what remains in more traditional acquisitions.

    The key elements are transparency, attribution, and clear rules.

    So long as we know who is allowed to contribute what (the rules) and who is contributing what (transparency and attribution) we can be sure that conflict of interest doesn’t occur (or is identified and dealt with, if it does). And with an open, transparent system, where competitors can be on the lookout for inappropriate private sector involvement in decision making, we stand a much greater chance of identification of conflict of interest situations.

    That’ll mean more work for the ethics officers, until people get used to the fact they’ll be found out. Which may be a valid reason for another sort of heebie-jeebies on their part.

  • #99856

    Jaime Gracia
    Participant

    My hope is that these initiatives will help improve the requirements development process, such that the correlation between increased competition and decreasing costs has a long-term lens. As Harlan stated, and to elaborate, cost SHOULD be the last and least determinant in a truly innovative competitive environment. However, that is not usually the case. Nonetheless, these initiatives focus on what is at the heart of these Acquisition 2.0 endeavors; innovation.

    By being able to actively participate in the development of requirements, flushing out the objectives, and thus being able to increase competition, industry and the government can also actively participate in market research and communicate to ensure the government does not unnecessarily limit itself. Further, the hope is these techniques will lead to better solutions, better performance-based contracts, and ultimately better outcomes.

    These solutions may cost more in the short-term, which further validates what is in the best interest of the government (e.g. best value), but in the long-term, these better, innovative solutions increase performance, and thus allow for increased efficiencies and lowered costs.

  • #99854

    Al Fullbright
    Participant

    I dont think this is quite what gives ethics officers problems. The main problems with contacts are mostly from outside of work where private friendships are cherished more that serving the citizens, and it becomes rational to shortcut the system. The fact that many contractors and lobbyists cultivate these friendships intentionally for business purposes and shortcuts are taken to expedite profits can be readily seen in the Gulf Spill we are watching.

    Enlarging public participation will create more transparency. In fact the computer is creating more transparency too. Beware to Crooks! What is unknown today is found out tommorrow. Either technology gets better; more information comes into the system; or somebody discovers them accidentally.

  • #99852

    Mary Davie
    Participant

    After evaluating over 100 ideas submitted on the BetterBuy platform for ways to use collaborative technology to make the acquisition process more open, collaborative and participatory, GSA launched a wiki (http://betterbuy.fas.gsa.gov) to gather feedback from the private sector and other interested parties for specific requirements. We’ve used the wiki for three requirements so far and to solicit three very different kinds of input. In each instance, we’ve posed questions and have also posted all sections of the solicitation making editing capability available to anyone. For data.gov, we wanted industry to help us define requirements and shape the solicitation. For ClearPath, we were primarily conducting market research – were there alternative solutions that we weren’t aware of and needed to explore? And for GSA’s email and collaboration tools requirement, we wanted input on the acquisition strategy.

    So how does using a wiki enhance our traditional processes? What considerations must we make before using technology in this way and changing our business practices?

    Traditional procurement practices are still being used (e.g., GSA Policy, FAR compliance). For example, to announce the start of the BetterBuy Project, GSA issued a Request for Information on eBuy. The traditional RFI process seeks to obtain written information, submitted individually and privately from interested parties. The Government then reviews the information and develops the acquisition (e.g., writing an acquisition plan, statement of work). This task is performed by one or a few Government employees often relying on others on the government team to review and comment. Using the wiki, we are testing out this process in the open. Think ‘crowdsourcing’ – let the best ideas from everyone percolate to the top. This process allows interested parties to provide comments, questions, and edits in “real-time” and receive feedback/answers in “real-time”.

    As we started discussing using a wiki in this way for this purpose, we quickly found it’s not just the ethics officers who have concerns. In both government and industry, contracting officers, project managers, lawyers, and technical advisors had to address a series a of issues related to security, records management, privacy, access to information, user registration and authentication, roles and responsibilities as well as trying to figure out a way to get or give meaningful input in a manageable way. The industry respondents also had to figure out not only how to provide input that doesn’t expose proprietary information, doesn’t diminish competitive advantage or corporate value, but also how to control who responds and the process by which an approved response would be submitted. When a response is submitted privately, these are lesser concerns.

    Now that we have some lessons learned, we seem to be getting a feel for the best way to use the wiki, we are also wanting to create a forum that enables us to stimulate more of a dialogue between government and industry during the process (which will raise new concerns), and we may look at what part of the process is better served by staying “behind closed doors.” You can get more on the government and industry perspective on this experiment at http://blog.betterbuyproject.com

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