DHS reduces noncompetitive contracts, improves oversight

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Noncompetitive contracts at the Homeland Security Department totaled about $389 million in fiscal 2012, down from $3.5 billion in fiscal 2008, the DHS office of inspector general says.

The department's spending on noncompetitive contracts has dropped each year since fiscal 2008, and in the meantime, it has improved its internal oversight of acquisitions, the OIG says in a report (.pdf) dated Feb. 1 and recently posted online.

For example, out of the 40 noncompetitive awards from 2012 that auditors examined, all those that required written justification had it complete and on file. Problems with justification have fallen since 2008, when 27 percent of justifications in the OIG's sample were deficient.

Market research related to noncompetitive contracts has also improved sharply. Three-fourths of the contracts the OIG looked at in 2008 had deficiencies in market research, but in 2012, only one of the 40 contracts did.

But DHS still fails too often to comply with requirements that it assess vendors' past performance, the report says. Under departmental rules, contracting officers have to document evidence that they consulted three systems that contain information on vendors' past performance.

One-fourth of the contracts in the OIG's 2012 sample didn't consult the Excluded Parties List System, or at least didn't document doing so. More than three-fifths didn't do so for the Past Performance Information Retrieval System. Sixty-five percent did not do so for the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System, which is required under governmentwide rules.

The report recommends that DHS's chief procurement officer and the heads of contracting at its components ensure that their personnel consult the three systems and document that they did so, as required. DHS concurred and said it would issue a reminder.

Government acquisition rules allow contracts to be awarded without full and open competition in seven different circumstances, including urgency, national security and international agreements.

For more:
- download the report, OIG-13-36 (.pdf)

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