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POGO's Government Contracting Concerns and Recommendations

September 16, 2005 

 

POGO'S GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING CONCERNS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
IN THE AFTERMATH OF HURRICANE KATRINA

1. LACK OF COMPETITION

POGO CONCERN

  • A vastly increased micro-purchase threshold eliminates competition for a large number of contracts and is susceptible to government purchase card fraud and abuse
  • Non-urgent purchases of goods and services may not be subject to competitive bids
  • The federal government is relying on familiar and convenient contractors

POGO RECOMMENDATION

  • Repeal the $250,000 micro-purchase threshold
  • Conduct full and open competition or at least limited competition for all non-urgent purchases
  • Add stronger audit provisions to existing laws
  • Do not create any additional provisions to allow for non-competitive contracting
  • Open competition to  all contractors (including small and minority businesses) rather than the current closed club of federal contractors

2. LACK OF TRANSPARENCY

POGO CONCERN

  • Basic information regarding government purchases of goods and services (e.g. contract type, award amount, summary of work) is inadequate
  • Government auditors do not have adequate access to cost or pricing data

POGO RECOMMENDATION

    • Congress should require agencies to create user friendly web sites showing all contracts, task and delivery orders, agreements, grants, or other disbursements of federal dollars to ensure the taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely
    • Allow government auditors access to cost or pricing data from contractors selling goods or services whose prices are not determined in the commercial marketplace

3. INADEQUATE OVERSIGHT

POGO CONCERN

  • Federal spending is outstripping the capacity of federal auditors and contracting personnel to ensure taxpayers and Katrina survivors are not being exploited

POGO RECOMMENDATION

  • Strengthen oversight and audit provisions for government contracts
  • Rebuild staff in federal contracting and audit offices that have been cut to the bone over the past decade

4. CONTRACTOR MISCONDUCT

POGO CONCERN

  • Large contracts are being awarded to contractors with histories of misconduct (Bechtel, Halliburton, Shaw and Fluor)

POGO RECOMMENDATION

  • The government must create a centralized database which lists instances of contractor misconduct so that government procurement officials can make contracting determinations prior to committing federal funds 

5. INHERENTLY GOVERNMENTAL FUNCTIONS

POGO CONCERN

  • Career civil servants are being replaced by appointees and contractor employees who place private sector goals above those of the public good

POGO RECOMMENDATION

  • Policymakers should review the current definition of federal government job positions to ensure that "inherently governmental" jobs are not outsourced to contractors who may have financial interests that pose conflicts of interest with public service

6. THE REVOLVING DOOR

POGO CONCERN

  • Some senior federal officials are exploiting their public service by going to work for the industries they had been overseeing, costing taxpayers through excessive contract prices, limiting or eliminating competition from businesses that may be the best for the job, and resulting in flawed policies and bad procurement decisions

  • The revolving door also exacerbates public distrust, which can result in a decline in civic participation and demoralizing career civil servants who see their supervisors and co-workers using their government positions as stepping stones for private gain

POGO RECOMMENDATION

  • Political appointees and Senior Executive Service policymakers (people who develop rules and determine requirements) should take an oath that they will not receive compensation from contractors who were regulated by or benefitted from the policies the official formulated while in public service

  • Close the loophole that allows former government employees to work for a different department or division of the same contractor they oversaw as a government employee 


Additional Resources

POGO ’s Contractor Misconduct Database.

POGO provides additional information to the panel reviewing the government's buying system. August 30, 2005.

POGO 's testimony on DoD's Use of "Commercial" Acquisitions.  March 2005.

POGO Report - Politics of Contracting Report, including the revolving doors spinning from the government to the top 20 government contractors. June 29, 2004.

POGO 's Senate testimony calling for the suspension or debarment of Halliburton. September 10, 2004.

POGO Report - Federal Contracting and Iraq Reconstruction. March 11, 2004.

POGO Report - Pick Pocketing the Taxpayer: The Insidious Effects of Acquisition Reform Revised Edition. March 11, 2002.


Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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