Can Federal Agencies Learn to Share or Is Interagency Procurement Over?
After 7 years on the High Risk List, interagency contracts may find a place in the US federal supply chain again. Contract sharing across departments has several benefits, but is the current system ready to manage the risks involved?
Why Is Interagency Contracting a Risk?
After a 2004 investigation, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) added interagency contracting to its list of high risk activities. The system lacked accountability and could easily be abused by those with purchasing power. In the investigated case, for example, defense officials in Iraq used an interagency contract for IT purchases to hire interrogators. Rather than revamp the system, agencies shied away from the procurement technique and shared contracts between departments ceased.
Could Contract Collaboration Improve Procurement?
As of 2013, interagency contracting is no longer on the GAO’s High Risk List, but can officials use shared contracts to improve the government procurement process? The primary benefit of contract sharing is that it minimizes duplications. Rather than carrying two separate contracts from the same vendor, one agency uses another department’s contract to streamline the process. Ideally, it can save resources and cut costs, but agency officials must work together.
The Future of Federal Procurement
Gene Dodaro, comptroller general, admits that there will still be challenges but believes “there are mechanisms in place that OMB and federal agencies can use to identify and address interagency contracting issues before they put the government at significant risk for waste, fraud, or abuse.” There are several upcoming government-wide acquisition contracts (GWACs) that will open the door for more collaborative contracts. Government vehicle purchases may also benefit from contract sharing.
Officials have developed new policies to increase accountability and transparency in interagency contracts, but there are still risks involved. According to Dodaro, GAO will continue to check all federal contract sharing for compliance. “They may be off the list, but they’re not out of sight.”
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