The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved the bipartisan “Accountability in Government Contracting Act of 2007, authored by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (ID-CT). The bill will strengthen competition in federal contracting, add transparency to the process, and help curtail waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayers’ money. Additional cosponsors include Norm Coleman (R-MN), Tom Carper (D-DE), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Daniel Akaka (D-HI).

Senator Collins said, “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.”

“Federal contract purchases now exceed $400 billion a year, and the amount of waste that has been uncovered through our committee’s investigations is alarming. It is clear that our federal contracting process is in need of comprehensive reforms. Federal agencies are awarding too many no-bid contracts. This bill will strengthen competition in federal contracting,” said Senator Collins. Senator Collins also added that “this bill also focuses on the government’s acquisition workforce, which has been long neglected. By increasing the competencies and skills and numbers of our acquisition workforce, we will also ensure that the amount of waste and abuse will be reduced and the taxpayer’s dollars better spent.

Senator Lieberman said, “Government spending on contracts has exploded, while the trained workforce that oversees them has shrunk. This has already contributed to infuriating examples of waste, and the problem will only worsen in the years ahead if we don’t act together. A successful system for buying goods and services requires careful planning and negotiation before the contract is signed, followed by rigorous oversight through the life of the contract. With billions and billions of taxpayers’ dollars at stake, both the government and contractors have a responsibility to do a better job than they are now. The Accountability in Government Contracting Act will go a long way toward making sure the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.”

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. The Collins-Lieberman legislation would require more federal contracts to be competitively bid.

The bill also 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.