Incomplete contractor info made it difficult for DoD to determine noncompetitive contract prices

The Defense Department had trouble determining reasonable prices for noncompetitive contracts because some contractors wouldn’t share pricing information, according to an Aug. 12 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

GAO-GovernmentAccountabilityOffice-SealNormally, DoD relies on competition to ensure that it pays a reasonable price for its goods and services. But for noncompetitive contracts, DoD relies on other methods including information from previous contracts or from the contractors themselves, GAO says in the report.

The DoD requested pricing information from contractors for 12 of 32 noncompetitive agreements in GAO’s sample. For the remaning 20 contracts, DoD felt it already had enough information to make sure it was getting a reasonable price.

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GAO: Agencies should be seeking deeper discounts on FSS contracts

Agencies aren’t consistently seeking discounts when procuring goods and services off the Federal Supply Schedules, says a Government Accountability Office report released Aug. 10.

GSA Schedule Contract logoThe Federal Supply Schedules, or FSS, program allows agencies to buy commercial products and services from a list of approved vendors at discounted prices.

According to the General Services Administration, agencies placed more than $33 billion worth of orders through the FSS program in fiscal year 2014. The FSS portion of total federal contract spending represents about 6 percent of contract spending governmentwide, the report says.

That said, agencies should be pushing for discounts even further than those provided by the base FSS prices, GAO says.

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New DFARS proposed rule on commercial items acquisition and subcontracting: An end run on Congress?

On Monday, August 3, 2015, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued a long-awaited proposed rule that could have a significant impact on how the DoD and prime contractors procure commercial items.  

US DoD logoThe Proposed Rule is said to merely implement Section 831(a) of the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but goes much further, proposing significant substantive changes to what qualifies as a “commercial item” under DoD-funded contracts and imposing significant burdens on prime contractors to gather data from their commercial item subcontractors.

Section 831 directed DoD to, among other things, issue guidance including “standards for determining whether information on the prices at which the same or similar items have previously been sold is adequate for evaluating the reasonableness of prices.”  Section 831 was, in part, a response to DoD’s recent efforts to narrow the broad commercial item paradigm created by Congress in the 1990s, including a 2012 DoD legislative proposal to change the statutory and regulatory definition of “commercial item.”

Specifically, DoD requested legislation to grant DoD greater access to cost or pricing data associated with commercial items and sought to change the definition of commercial items to exclude items that are merely “offered for sale” or “of a type” offered for sale in the marketplace.  Congress declined to make those changes, recognizing the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA) purposefully includes a broad definition of commercial items in order to ensure that the federal government has access to products available in the commercial marketplace.

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Sorry Feds: You have to bring your own plates and forks to work

In a decision that was five years in the making, government auditors have ruled that federal employees are on their own when it comes to disposable cups, plates and cutlery.

GAO-GovernmentAccountabilityOffice-SealUpon reconsideration of a decision originally released in December, the Government Accountability Office determined appropriated funds at the National Weather Service “are not available to purchase such items since they constitute personal expenses of employees.” The NWS Employee Organization, which represents the agency’s workforce, has fought NWS management since 2009 to provide the eating accessories on the agency’s dime.

In September 2009, the Commerce Department and NWSEO signed a memorandum of understanding that the government would supply workers with eating utensils. Things went swimmingly until 2013, when Commerce announced it could no longer afford the perk. The union, however, refused to give up so easily.

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Postal Service purchase card program needs better oversight, new audit finds

A new U.S. Postal Service audit found inadequate oversight in regards to the use of expense purchase cards despite policies and procedures in place. 

USPS logoThe USPS inspector general (IG) said in an Aug. 7, 2015 report that, of the 209 transactions – worth $72,333 – it reviewed, 133 were missing the required documentation. And, of those missing, 51 were made without proper approval.

Additionally, cardholders for 42 percent of the transactions and approving officials for 41 percent either did not take the required expense purchase card training or could not provide proof of completion, the IG said.

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