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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Acquisition managers: We're overwhelmed with oversight

Senior procurement officials have a message for investigators: Please leave us alone.

They feel berated by lawmakers and inspectors general who don't always understand how contracting works, according to survey results released Thursday by the Professional Services Council, an Arlington, Va.-based industry group, and Grant Thornton, a global consultancy.

The survey, which entailed in-person interviews with 37 federal acquisition managers, found that "pressure from oversight organizations [is] creating a palpable tension and frustration among even the most seasoned procurement professionals." Managers complained that lawmakers take audit reports from the Government Accountability Office and inspectors general "as gospel," when in reality the auditors often have little experience with the contracting field. They might portray an innovative practice as suspicious, when it is well within federal regulations, for example.

The survey also suggested that procurement officials feel stretched by the various procurement initiatives being pushed throughout the federal government. For instance, the Office of Management and Budget's competitive sourcing effort to allow contractors to bid on some federal work, and its lines of business initiative to consolidate back-end systems in areas such as financial management, can conflict with one another. And strategic sourcing can be at odds with performance-based contracting initiatives, Soloway said.

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