Senator Susan Collins has introduced major legislation to reform federal contracting practices. The Accountability in Government Contracting Act of 2007 would provide increased oversight and transparency in the federal government’s dealings with contractors, strengthen the procurement workforce, reform the Inspector General community, and combat waste, fraud, and abuse.
“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,” said Senator Collins. “We need more competition, less sole source contracting, and tougher management in federal contracts. This bill promotes more open competition for government contracts – a positive step for both contractors and taxpayers.”
Senator Collins’ comprehensive contracting reform bill increases competition by mandating competition for all government task or delivery orders over $100,000, a practice that already exists at the Department of Defense. 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.
“Too often, the problem of waste, fraud, and abuse stimulates floods of outrage and magic-bullet proposals that lean more toward symbolic gestures than practical reforms,” said Senator Collins. “The Accountability in Government Contracting Act of 2007 confines itself to sensible, practical reforms that will really make a difference.”
The Accountability in Government Contracting Act would achieve many other important reforms, including provisions that:
• Specifically address demonstrated problems in contracting for assistance programs in Afghanistan by requiring the Administrator of USAID to revise the agency’s strategy for assistance to include measurable goals, specific time frames, resource levels, delineated responsibilities, external factors bearing on success, and a schedule for program evaluations.
• Reform the Inspector General (IG) system by prohibiting IGs from accepting any cash award or cash bonus from the agency they are auditing or investigating, clarifying that IGs’ subpoena power extends to electronic documents, establishing professional qualifications for the designated federal entity (DFE) IGs, and giving DFE IGs the same authority that Presidentially appointed IGs have to investigate and report false claims and to recoup losses resulting from fraud below $150,000.
• Strengthens effective oversight when sole source contracting is appropriate by requiring publication of notices at the “FedBizOpps” website of all sole source task or delivery orders above $100,000 within ten business days after the award.
• Reins 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 40-percent of the work is performed.
• Extends a tiering-control rule that prevents contractors from using subcontracts for more than 65-percent of the cost of the contract.
• Decreases the government’s reliance on large single source service contracts by strengthening the preference for multiple awards of Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts by prohibiting single awards of IDIQ contracts for services over $100 million.
• Ensures that interagency contracting is producing value by requiring the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) to collect and make publicly available data on the numbers, scope, users, and rationales for these contracts.
• Helps federal agencies recruit, retain, and develop an adequate acquisition workforce by creating acquisition internship programs, a government industry exchange program, a scholarship program for graduate study, promoting contracting careers, requirements for human capital strategic plans by chief acquisition officers, and a new senior executive level position in OFPP to manage this initiative.
• Targets 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.
• Addresses 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 craft a government-wide definition of lead systems integrators and study their use by various agencies.