Contractors Object to Parts of OMB's Agency Reporting Reductions

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said, “If no one is asking for it, maybe it doesn’t have much value to it." OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said, “If no one is asking for it, maybe it doesn’t have much value to it." Jacquelyn Martin/AP

A group representing 400 services and information technology contractors has asked the Office of Management and Budget to revamp several of the 59 changes announced on June 15 in its memo on easing the reporting burden on agencies.

The Arlington, Va.-based Professional Services Council, though supportive in general of the budget office’s bid to trim and update administrative requirements, sent a June 22 letter to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney seeking changes in the Trump administration’s handling of accelerated payments to small businesses, acquisition assessments and reporting of agency priority goals.

“If no one is asking for it, maybe it doesn’t have much value to it,” Mulvaney told reporters during the rollout of the June 15 memo to agency heads targeting a portion of what eventually could be 250 management directives that might be “duplicative, obsolete, redundant or low value.”

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The 59 changes announced this month are effective immediately; the remainder largely involve statutes and will be addressed with Congress in a future Phase 2, Mulvaney said.

The contractors questioned the language eliminating the need for agencies to report quarterly on small business invoices within 30 days, which OMB said could save agencies tens of thousands of hours.

OMB’s memo, however, encourages agencies to continue to accelerate payments “to the best of their ability,” the contractors noted. “There is now confusion whether the underlying direction to the federal agencies to continue to make accelerated payments remains in full force,” they wrote. “We strongly recommend that you fully rescind all prior OMB memos on this topic and issue a new memo that provides only the policy direction to the agencies to continue to accelerate payments to small business and small business subcontractors without imposing any reporting requirement on the agencies.”

In the section on conducting acquisition assessments under OMB Circular A-123,  the budget office “pauses” the requirement that federal agencies conduct entity-level internal control reviews of the acquisition function and then integrate their assessment efforts with existing agency internal control processes and practices, the contractors noted. The purpose is to allow agencies to focus on their reorganization and efficiency plans that are due on June 30.

 “In our view, requiring agencies to continue to perform their review of internal controls of their acquisition functions should remain an essential element of agency management, even during their internal reorganizational assessments,” PSC wrote. “Once agency reorganization plans are approved, agencies would be able to modify their A-123 reviews to address any organizational or operational changes” to procedures that have helped agencies identify root causes for noncompliance with procurement laws and rules.

Finally, the contractors challenged OMB’s decision to pause agency reporting on priority goals to the website Performance.gov, pending Trump administration review of new goals. The contractors argued that many of the goals already align with administration priorities.  The “reports have provided valuable insight into agency activities, including successes and remaining challenges,” they wrote.

PSC added: “In the case of the cross-agency goal for security clearance, for example, the quarterly reports have provided critical information on addressing key administration, congressional and industry interests. We strongly recommend that OMB promptly identify those current agency-specific and cross-agency goals that align with the administration’s priorities and direct responsible parties to continue to provide quarterly updates.” (The contractors also argued that OMB had missed an Obama administration update on the performance circular from July 2016.)

Two other eliminated rules affecting contractors that PSC did not object to involved implementation guidance for an executive order on use of project labor agreements for federal construction projects over $25 million; and a March 2013 directive from Obama’s team on improving the collection and use of information about contractor past performance and integrity. 

OMB’s rationale for ending that was “to ensure agencies’ efforts are focused on using this tool as an incentive to achieve successful performance outcomes, and not on rigid compliance with meeting a goal.”

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