GSA acquisition database integration pushed back to 2018

The General Services Administration (GSA) pushed back the planned completion date of an integrated acquisition database to 2018 because of development problems and cost overruns, GSA Assistant Commissioner Kevin Youel Page told a Senate panel March 6.

“We’ve suffered our own missteps,” Page said during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee subcommittee on financial and contracting oversight.

Plans were made in 2001 to combine governmentwide acquisition databases into a single system called the Integrated Acquisition Environment.

But the project has been plagued with problems.

A March 2012 Government Accountability Office report says cost overruns, which grew by 89 percent, were largely due to mistakes GSA has made. GAO initially estimated it would cost about $95.7 million, but the 2012 estimate came in at $181.1 million.

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Data on contractor past performance is missing or inaccurate

Four interagency databases designed to warn contracting officers about a company’s past performance are riddled with problems that can become expensive agency boondoggles, a senator declared at an oversight hearing Thursday.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., blasted as “shockingly old and clunky” the databases pioneered by the Navy and now administered governmentwide by the General Services Administration, calling for more complete information on whether contractors, for example, have been suspended and debarred.

She criticized the Office of Management and Budget for not sending a witness to a hearing she held as chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs contracting subcommittee. McCaskill also said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “could have avoided a black eye” for the “very public failure” of the rollout of the website last fall had it been able to discover more on the past performance of the contractor CGI Federal.

Since passage of the 2002 E-Government Act, agencies have sought to consolidate and centralize online data on contractors’ performance history including contract terminations, criminal acts and administrative adjudications. The chief databases that managers may consult include the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS), the Federal Awardee Performance Integrity Information System (FAPIIS) and the System for Award Management.

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DoD re-emphasizes importance of contractor past-performance reporting

The Defense Department’s contracting chief, Frank Kendall, has called for renewed emphasis on the importance of agency reporting on contractor performance.

In a January 9, 2014 memorandum to the Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition workforce, DoD Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics points out that while the reporting goal for FY14 is 95 percent, compliance with the goal is at only 81.5 percent department-wide.

Only first quarter FY14 data are available at this point.  Past performance reports are to be filed in Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS).

An analysis of first quarter FY14 data shows that while five units within DoD have a reporting record of 90 percent or better, there are eight DoD units with 50 percent or lower reporting compliance.  Most of these are small units with a small amount of contracting activity.

A DoD unit with a significant number of contract closeouts coupled with a high rate of reporting non-compliance is the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA).  DCMA’s reporting percentage is 68.5 percent.

The  Navy, Army and Air Force have the highest numbers of contracts and contract closeouts.  While their levels of reporting are relatively high (85, 78, and 87 percent, respectively), each has a high number of overdue reports as of the end of the first quarter.  The Army has 8,810 past due reports, while the Navy and Air Force have 3,023 and 1,737 late reports, respectively.

The memorandum and its attachment can be seen here: USA000068-14-DPAP.

OFPP tells agencies to get serious about tracking contractor performance

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is attempting, for a third time, to get  agencies to use the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS) more  consistently.

So instead of asking and encouraging, OFPP Administrator Joe Jordan is setting  specific goals for agencies.

In a new memo to chief acquisition officers and  senior procurement executives, Jordan sets three-year targets for agencies to  enter vendor-performance information into the governmentwide database.

This year, the goals vary depending on how often the agency is currently entering  data into PPIRS. For instance, departments inputting data for 60 percent or more  of their contracts, must improve to 85 percent by Sept. 30. For agencies using  PPIRS 30 percent to 60 percent of the time, their goal now is 75  percent. And for those agencies using PPIRS less than 30 percent of the time,  their goal is 65 percent.

“This required contract-administration duty can significantly reduce the risk to  the government on future awards, so agencies must take bold steps to ensure that  all critical performance information is made available in the Past Performance  Information Retrieval System (PPIRS) in a timely manner, and to the maximum extent  practicable, eliminate duplicative, paper-based past performance evaluation  surveys generated outside these systems,” Jordan wrote.

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DHS reduces noncompetitive contracts, improves oversight

Noncompetitive contracts at the Homeland Security Department totaled about  $389 million in fiscal 2012, down from $3.5 billion in fiscal 2008, the DHS office of inspector general says.

The department’s spending on noncompetitive contracts has dropped each year  since fiscal 2008, and in the meantime, it has improved its internal oversight  of acquisitions, the OIG says in a report dated Feb. 1, 2013 and recently posted online.

For example, out of the 40 noncompetitive awards from 2012 that auditors  examined, all those that required written justification had it complete and on  file. Problems with justification have fallen since 2008, when 27 percent of  justifications in the OIG’s sample were deficient.

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Deadline set fighting disclosure of contractor work history

The Obama administration solidified an interim rule that requires agency officials to post a government contractor’s work history in a publicly accessible website.

The Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS) is a one-stop web site for contracting officers and federal employees to look at the history of companies’ work with the federal government.

FAPIIS includes data from the Performance Information Retrieval System, as well as information from other databases, including the Excluded Parties List System, which lists companies that are suspended or debarred from federal contracting. The overall purpose of FAPIIS is to make it easier for contracting officers to get an overall assessment of a company before awarding a contract by not having to search numerous databases.

A year ago, acquisition officials issued an interim rule making all the information public, except for past performance reviews by agencies.

The final rule took effect Jan. 3.

In the Federal Register notice about the rule, officials recognized the risks about the information going public though.

The final rule gives companies seven days to find any information that should not be disclosed because it should be considered exempt from disclosure. In such a case, officials will remove the information from FAPIIS to resolve the issue.

If the government official does not remove the item, it will be automatically released to the public site within two weeks after the review period began, according to the notice.

About the Author: Matthew Weigelt is a senior writer covering acquisition and procurement for Federal Computer Week.   This article appeared Jan. 4, 2012 at

SAM deployment likely to be delayed; GSA might replace DUNS

A General Services Administration (GSA) effort to consolidate federal online acquisition systems will likely receive no development money during the current fiscal year, causing GSA officials to anticipate a delay in the project.

However, GSA officials are going forward with a planned sources sought notice, to be released shortly, seeking private sector input on the viability of replacing mandatory federal vendor acquirement of a DUNS number from Dun & Bradstreet with a government-generated unique identifier. [Editor’s Note: The sources sought was published on Oct. 27, 2011, with response deadline of Nov. 21, 2011.  Details on the sources sought may be viewed at]

If the government does replace DUNS with its own unique identifier system for vendors, the transition would likely be tied to the third phase of the online acquisition system consolidation effort, said Kathleen Turco, head of GSA’s office of governmentwide policy, during an Oct. 21 interview.

The integration effort seeks to consolidate 9 currently separate systems into one, to be known as the System for Award Management, or SAM. IBM received a $74.4 million contract in 2010 to develop the SAM architecture; part of the consolidation effort includes unifying the currently disparate databases into a single, unified one.

Because GSA received $7 million in development funds during fiscal 2011, which ended on Sept. 30, it will be able to proceed with the first phase of the consolidation, which will tie together Central Contractor Registration, Online Representations and Certifications Application and the Excluded Parties List System.

Starting in May, front-end users will find that they have to log onto SAM only once to access the functionalities of all three systems, Turco said.

However, a request for $15 million in development, modernization and enhancement money for the current fiscal year has bumped up against spending constraints; the Senate Appropriations Committee markup of GSA’s fiscal 2012 spending bill denied the request in total. The House version would appropriate about $3 million in DME money for the project, Turco said. Congress has yet to pass any fiscal 2012 appropriations bill; the federal government is operating under a continuing resolution that expires on midnight of Nov. 18.

As a result of the House and Senate marks, Turco said GSA will likely postpone roll out of phase 2, under which GSA plans to consolidate FedBizOps, the Electronic Subcontracting Reporting System, and the Assistance Program Catalog. Originally, GSA had planned to unveil that phase in the spring of 2013; if GSA receives sufficient funding for fiscal 2013, it would be able to complete that phase in spring 2014, Turco said.

The third phase would consolidate FPDS , Wage Determinations Online and the Past Performance Information Retrieval System. The earliest phase 3 could now be completed–it was originally planned for spring 2014–is now spring 2015, Turco said.

It’s in conjunction with phase 3 that GSA would likely also transition from using DUNS as a unique vendor identifier to a government-generated number, if GSA decides to do so, Turco added.

Vendors wishing to do business with the government must receive a unique identifier–in some cases, more than one, depending on the number of physical locations and legal divisions a company has–and GSA has long contracted with Dun & Bradstreet for government vendors to receive Data Universal Numbering System identifier for free.

But, the government pays Dun & Bradstreet $18 million a year for the service, making it the single most expensive element of the Integrated Acquisition Environment, the name GSA gives to 9 systems set for consolidation into SAM.

“We’ve had a lot of push on us from the Hill and many vendors have said to us ‘Why is it only Dun and Bradstreet?'” Turco said.

However, replacing DUNS would be no easy task, she acknowledged, since DUNS are used in financial systems to pay vendors and have become deeply integrated into IAE feeder systems.

— by David Perera, Fierce Government IT, Oct. 24, 2011 –

Agencies slow to respond to requests for contractor data

Some federal procurement officers are refusing to publicly release contractor ratings data that may show agencies are not properly evaluating the performance of vendors who receive billion-dollar contracts, according to a consulting practice that regularly files Freedom of Information Act requests for the data.

In June, Jeff Stachewicz, founder of the FOIA Group, tried to obtain contractor evaluations from several agencies, including the departments of Defense, Energy and Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA. Interior and NASA released their contractor performance ratings, a move that Stachewicz applauds and attributes to President Obama’s push for greater transparency.

But it took months for FOIA officers to respond to the requests. Stachewicz believes that’s because some contracting officials did not want the public to see incomplete ratings contained in the Past Performance Information Retrieval System, and the application used to capture the information, the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System. Some agencies, such as the Defense, Homeland Security and Justice departments, denied his requests. Several of his other inquiries are still pending.

To better understand what was holding up his inquiries, Stachewicz filed a FOIA request to obtain e-mail correspondence between various agencies and Defense, which controls the databases. Two weeks ago, Energy provided him nearly 30-pages of redacted e-mails to and from Defense officials, including one exchange of messages indicating Energy had trouble obtaining its information from Defense.

In that exchange, an Energy official asked, “Is there someone within DOD that can or will release DOE performance data?” In reply, a Defense official in the database’s program office stated that a senior procurement analyst at the Pentagon had advised that the office “will not provide any ratings information in electronic or other format. DOD has not released this information in the past.”

Stachewicz says the e-mail indicates Defense was trying to block the information from consideration for release under FOIA at other agencies.

“That was the smoking gun. That one response was, ‘We don’t want to give that data out.’ In my opinion, that’s not proper. They were deliberately trying to avoid the FOIA by not giving it to the agencies to make a decision,” he said. “This flies in the face of the Obama transparency doctrine. It’s a report card . . . Let them kind of man up to their score.”

Stachewicz said while contractors are accountable for their scores, procurement officials who manage the scoring systems also are responsible for maintaining up-to-date, accurate and complete assessments. The procurement officials “are not trying to hide what’s there. They are trying to hide what’s not there,” he said.

In the past, federal auditors have sharply criticized agencies for filing insufficient evaluations of contractors that failed to provide project managers with information necessary to pick the best suppliers. Part of the difficulty is that the Office of Federal Procurement Policy has not established a way to standardize ratings scales across agencies nor made thorough documentation a priority, according to a 2009 Government Accountability Office report. Until such problems are resolved, the report said, the Past Performance Information Retrieval System “will likely remain an inadequate information source for contracting officers. More importantly, the government cannot be assured that it has adequate performance information needed to make sound contract award decisions and investments.”

Energy officials did not respond to several requests for comment.

Defense officials said it is not true that anyone stopped the department’s employees from releasing ratings information to the agencies. “If an agency has come to the CPARS or PPIRS program offices and requested a copy of the data they have submitted for their own review for potential FOIA release, we have provided it,” Defense spokesperson Cheryl Irwin said.

But “there are additional factors,” she said, listing several issues that have caused delays in distributing the ratings. Historically, for example, Defense has not released certain evaluations because of concerns about disclosing vendors’ competitive and confidential information. In addition, Stachewicz’s group submitted requests to many agencies, all of which landed in the Defense program’s office simultaneously.

“DoD coordinated with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to understand if they wanted to make a governmentwide decision about releasability of the data,” Irwin said. The office, which is part of the Office of Management and Budget, has not done so, but has held conference calls with several agencies to gain an understanding of how each is handling the requests, she said.

Because there is no governmentwide policy on publicly releasing data from the contractor ratings systems, Defense is sending the information to the agencies for them to make decisions about disclosure, Irwin added.

“It has taken a couple of weeks to clear up some of the confusion from [such issues] and accomplish the necessary coordination with OFPP,” she said.

OMB officials confirmed that OFPP is convening conference calls with certain agencies about providing contractor ratings in response to FOIA requests. But each agency has discretion in choosing whether to publicly release its own data. Officials added they are unaware of any cases in which Defense has not provided agencies with their own ratings data or pressured agencies not to disclose their data.

The Office of Government Information Services, a new organization within the National Archives and Records Administration responsible for resolving FOIA disputes, said it is working with OMB and several federal agencies to examine procedures for consistently responding to FOIA requests for access to contractor performance ratings.

– By Aliya Sternstein – – 11/08/10 – © 2010 BY NATIONAL JOURNAL GROUP, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED