Public Spend Forum Content

Government Agencies’ Use of Reverse Auctions Reveal Deeper Issues

The big headline out of the Government Accountability Office’s report on federal agencies’ use of reverse auctions has been that—in some cases–agencies have ended up paying more than they could have if they’d gone a different contracting route. While it’s inarguable that’s the case, reading through the report, the story is obviously much more complicated than that. According to the GAO, looking at agencies’ FY2012 reverse auctions, 27% involved only one vendor who may have submitted one or multiple bids, and another 8% had multiple vendors who only submitted one bid each. It’s a fair guess that contractors begin their bidding high, waiting for the competitors to drive down the price, and when no competitive bidding ensues, the high bid becomes the price paid.

How Government Contractors Can Make Sense of Open Books

If you’ve ever worked in government contracting, you know that there are a lot of acronyms to learn and hoops that need to be jumped through in order to become a federal vendor. Whether you’re trying to self-certify as a certain type of small business or trying to register for the System of Awards Management, government contracting is a maze of regulations and rules from the get-go.

What Should We Make of the EPA’s New Sustainable Purchasing Guidelines?

On Monday, the Twitter stream was filled with people wishing the EPA a happy 43rd birthday—nothing brings out the Twitter well wishes like the big four-three. But the EPA has been front and center in our view the last couple weeks for another reason: The middle-aged agency is working on new green purchasing guidelines, and looking for comment. The guidelines, both contractors and acquisitions officers will be glad to know, are voluntary, but fill an interesting gap.

Can Socially Responsible Public Procurement Change the Marketplace for the Better?

Yesterday, we included in our news round-up a story from the San Francisco Chronicle about California’s attempt to weed out forced labor from the supply chains of companies based in the state. It’s a massive undertaking, no doubt, and passed two years ago, the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act is just beginning to make strides. The legislation requires that companies with at least $100 million in sales disclose how they’re monitoring the working conditions throughout their supply chain and how their suppliers are obeying codes of conduct. So far, some 600 California companies have at least minimally complied.

UK’s Report on Big Suppliers Misses Some Big Questions

Last month, the National Audit Office in the UK issued two reports on the role of government contractors, looking at whether the central government receives proper value when it contracts out public services, and whether it’s managing its suppliers in the most effective way. The reports look specifically at four large contractors—Atos, Capita, G4S and Serco—who together did roughly $3 billion in business with the government last year. G4S and Serco have been in the news lately, with both being implicated in overcharging the government for prisoner tagging, with some estimates putting the cost at $50 million.

Flaws Exposed in the Federal Procurement Data System

The Government Accountability Office has found that the Department of Defense and the General Services Administration—the two federal agencies that account for the vast majority of consolidated contracts—misreported the number of consolidated contracts in fiscal year 2011 and 2012. The GAO reviewed 157 contracts, and found that 34% of the DoD contracts reported as consolidated, and none of the GSA contracts designated as such, were in fact consolidated, leading the GAO to conclude that the two agencies “do not know the full extent to which they are awarding consolidated contracts.” The GAO also found four DoD contracts that were consolidated, but were not reported as such.

Is Defense Acquisition Suffering from “Reform Fatigue”?

There’s been a lot of talk lately about reforming the way the Pentagon buys. As David Wyld mentioned last week in his piece on Public Spend Forum, cost overruns are a way of life in weapons procurement, and as the federal budget cinches tighter, the problem is ready to go global (though, of course, in many ways it already has). Add to the mix a recent Reuters alleging decades of fraud in the Pentagon’s accounting, and confidence in our ability to purchase and sustain weapons may be at an all-time low.

Healthcare.gov Lessons in the GAO System for Award Management Report

I believe there is still a small mimeographed newspaper out there in America that—in the wake of the healthcare.gov debacle—has not yet weighed in with how to fix IT procurement in the federal government. I’m not sure what’s taking them so long, but while the pundits are being fitted for their CPO suits, let’s take a moment and remember that just last year, there was a 2012 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that, in at least some small ways, gave some insight into the healthcare.gov struggles, and how to fix them.

Healthcare.Gov and FITARA: Connecting the Dots

As Washington hits the ‘spin cycle’ and everyone from technocrats to mainstream pundits start diagnosing the failures associated with Healthcare.Gov, one thing that should be abundantly clear is this: Everything that Washington does is an IT Program in some way, shape, or form. Or perhaps put more succinctly, everything Washington does relies on an IT program in order to achieve results. If architecting a major public policy program were like designing a car, there are a lot of people in Washington who would like to treat IT like cup holders.

Procurement Technology in the Public Sector: The First Five Trends to Watch for in 2014

On Spend Matters, we track a broad range of procurement technology trends including a range of enablers (e.g., blazing fast in-memory databases, service oriented architecture (SOA) models and software-as-a-service (SaaS) deliver models) to the actual functional tools themselves. These include e-sourcing suites to enable organizations to execute on strategic sourcing initiatives, spend analysis tools to identify savings and aggregation opportunities (and measure results), and contract management solutions to insure that contracts are inked and then managed based on the right terms and conditions (which are then tracked in as automated a manner as possible through systems integration to ERP, eProcurement and other transactional tools that serve as systems of record).

Collaborating for a More Sustainable Supply Chain in Public Procurement (Part 3)

While the federal government is uniquely qualified to create an “Über community,” success depends upon the voluntary engagement of the business community. Does the Sustainable Supply Chain Community of Practice meet the hurdles of an economic business case for the practitioners? Henry Ward, former Director of Global Supply Chain Sustainability at Dow Chemical, highlighted the most obvious advantage of the Community of Practice, and his motivation for attending the inaugural session: “This event brought together lots of stakeholder that I don’t normally interact with. I knew maybe 25 percent of this highly regarded group of thought leaders, so it was a great opportunity to learn.”

A Reminder of Why Those Pesky Bureaucratic Rules Matter in Procurement

Rules. Handbooks. Procedures. Policies. Statutes. Guidelines. Codes of ethics. Waiting periods. Timeframes. Sometimes, public sector executives can feel like they have to manage in a box, constrained by what are often endless and burdensome constraints on their actions and decision-making. And yes, in government, it’s a rare thing to have regulations and policies taken “off the books,” as more often, new pages and new clauses are added to existing guidelines. Yet sometimes, there’s a story that comes across our desks that reminds us just why there is merit in having constraints on public sector officials and employees and why maybe, just maybe, those ethics training sessions that seem to go on too long may have some value.