Agencies need better contract planning, GAO says


Poor acquisition planning on service contracts has led to late contract awards, cost overruns and insufficient services at four federal agencies, an Aug. 9 Government Accountability Office report  shows.

Federal regulations require agencies to go through a detailed planning process for all acquisitions so that well-defined requirements, realistic cost estimates and lessons learned from past procurements are  in place before an agency seeks proposals from vendors. 

Looking at the four agencies with the highest obligations on professional, administrative, and management support services — the Health and Human Services Department, Department of Homeland Security, NASA and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) — the GAO found that while all but the USAID currently require written acquisition plans, contracting officers did not always use the acquisition planning process to develop a strong foundation for the acquisitions the GAO reviewed.

Also, agencies have not clearly defined how long acquisition planning should take, so program officials may not know when to start planning, the report said. 

The GAO has asked all agencies to direct their procurement offices to send out guidance on the use of the planning process, specify what should be included in planning documents, and establish timeframes by which contracting officials should begin planning.


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