Senate Homeland Security Committee Approves Collins-Lieberman Legislation to Combat Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Federal Contracting

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Chaired by Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) has approved bipartisan legislation she authored that will strengthen competition in federal contracting, add transparency to the process, and help curtail waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayers’ money. The Accountability in Government Contracting Act of 2007 was cosponsored by Norm Coleman (R-MN), Tom Carper (D-DE), Clair McCaskill (D-MO), and Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and was approved unanimously during a committee meeting earlier today.

Senator Collins explained that federal contract purchases now exceed $400 billion a year, and said that the alarming waste the committee has discovered through its investigations has highlighted the need for comprehensive reforms of the federal contracting process. “Our goal in this bill is to strengthen competition in federal contracting, improve procurement outcomes, and curtail waste of taxpayers’ money,” said Senator Collins. “This legislation will improve contract oversight, mandate increased vendor competition, and add transparency to the process. “

Senator Collins added, “The federal government’s prodigious purchasing can create abundant opportunities for waste, fraud, and abuse. Whether the problem is purchases of unusable trailers for hurricane victims, shoddy construction of schools and clinics in Iraq, or abuse of purchase cards by government employees, we must do a better job of protecting taxpayer dollars and delivering better acquisition outcomes.”

Senator Lieberman noted, “These reform measures are desperately needed at a time when spending on federal contracting has skyrocketed to over $400 billion per year, while the trained acquisition workforce that negotiates and oversees federal contracts has shrunk. The infuriating examples of waste and abuse in federal contracting will only continue unless we take action. S.860 puts us on the path to strengthening competition and reinvigorating the federal acquisition workforce.”

The dollar amount of federal contracts has nearly doubled since the year 2000, but the number of contracts that were awarded following a full and open competition has fallen below 50 percent according to Senators Collins and Lieberman. The legislation would require more federal contracts to be competitively bid. “Competition helps ensure lower costs and higher quality,” Senator Collins said.

The Collins-Lieberman contracting reform bill increases competition by mandating competition for all government task or delivery orders over $100,000. The legislation promotes more informed and effective competition for orders over $5 million by requiring more information in a contract’s statement of work. To increase the quality of competitive bids and improve transparency of the federal acquisition process, the bill mandates post-award debriefings for task or delivery orders valued over $5 million.

A summary of the Accountability in Government Contracting Act follows:

• Help federal agencies recruit, retain, and develop an adequate acquisition workforce by creating an acquisition internship program, promoting contracting careers, requiring human capital succession plans by chief acquisition officers, and creating a new senior executive level position in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) to manage this initiative.

• Create a Contingency Contracting Corps, a group of highly trained and experienced federal contracting professionals available to respond to emergency and contingency situations.

• Strengthen effective oversight and transparency when “sole source” contracting is appropriate by requiring publication of notices at the “FedBizOpps” website of all sole source task or delivery orders above the simplified acquisition threshold within ten business days after the award.

• Rein in the practice of awarding contracts missing key terms – such as price, scope, or schedule – and then failing to supply those terms until the contractor delivers the good or service, by requiring contracting officers to unilaterally determine all missing terms, if not mutually agreed upon, within 180 days or before a certain percentage of the work is performed.

• Reinforce the government’s preference for making multiple awards when competing Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts by limiting the award of an IDIQ contract for services valued over $100 million to a single vendor.

• Ensure that interagency contracting is producing value by requiring OFPP to collect and make publicly available data on the numbers, scope, users, and rationales for these contracts, and to approve all proposed multi-agency IDIQ contracts before they are awarded.

• Target wasteful use of government purchase cards by seeking better analysis of purchase card use to identify fraud, identify potential savings, negotiate discounts, collect and disseminate best practices, and address small business concerns in micro-purchases.

• Address the de-facto outsourcing of program management responsibility when a large contractor becomes the “lead systems integrator” for a multi-part project by requiring OFPP to provide guidance to agencies on the appropriate use of lead systems integrators.

• Place a limit on the length of contracts awarded non-competitively under urgent and compelling circumstances.