A Closer Look

With turnover in Congress, civilian contracting offices face increased oversight.

After spending much of 2005 on the defensive in the wake of countless contracting scandals spurred by Hurricane Katrina, civilian acquisition offices had hoped for a more low-key, back-to-basics year. It didn't go quite as planned.

Within weeks of assuming control of Congress, Democrats initiated a renewed level of oversight of procurement, shining a light on noncompetitive deals, mismanaged and wasteful contracts and ethical missteps at the General Services Administration. Procurement reform now has become a hot topic on Capitol Hill, and companies are preparing-albeit begrudgingly-for some of the most significant contracting legislation in recent memory.

The leading proponent for change has been Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., who has held hearings examining abuse in Homeland Security procurements, sponsored a bill to reduce the use of sole-source contracts and released a database of 189 contracts linked to waste, fraud or mismanagement. "A major problem is that while contract spending has soared, oversight has been discouraged and account-ability undermined," Waxman said in May at a contracting forum hosted by the Center for American Progress. "The result is mistakes have been made in virtually every step of the contracting process, from pre-contract planning through contract award and oversight to recovery of contract overcharges."

In April, for example, the Education Department inspector general found the agency's management of a key information technology services contract was inadequate. The same month, the National Toxicology Program terminated a contract with a consulting firm it had hired to assess how dozens of potentially toxic chemicals affect women's reproductive health, after reports surfaced that the company had ties to the chemical industry. Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, in particular has focused on the rise of no-bid contracts. The committee released a report in late June concluding that half the $412 billion in federal procurements in fiscal 2006 were awarded with less than full and open competition. A Waxman bill that has passed the House would require agencies to reduce the use of sole-source contracts.

The nonprofit Project on Government Oversight says about 40 percent of government contracts are let without competition. Industry representatives say those numbers are inflated, in some cases counting sole-source task orders from competitively awarded contracts as no-bid. But an analysis of data from the nonprofit watchdog OMB Watch reveals that most civilian agencies de-creased contract competition from fiscal 2005 to 2006, in some cases substantially.

Interagency contracting has been another area of concern, making the Government Accountability Office's list of high-risk areas. When an agency buys commonly needed goods and services through another agency's contract for a fee, it can save money by leveraging the government's buying power. But GAO and watchdog groups say this type of spending has soared without a commensurate rise in the number of personnel needed to manage it. Spending through General Services Administration schedules has increased by $4 billion in the last two years, according to GAO.

The shortage of procurement workers is another looming problem receiving attention. The Acquisition Advisory Panel, which after two years of work released in December a slew of recommendations on the contracting system, called for the expansion of the acquisition workforce. And Waxman's bill would set aside 1 percent of federal procurement spending for contract management and oversight. "Procurement experts can debate whether that's the right percentage or not," Waxman said at the contracting conference. "But we need more resources, and that should not be in dispute."

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.