VA made mandatory an inadequate national contracting management system

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The Veterans Affairs Department rolled out an electronic contract management system in its national acquisition center without first ensuring the system adequately supports contracting operations, says the VA's office of inspector general.

The system, known as eCMS, "lacks some of the functionality required to manage and provide contract information," the Sept. 2 report says.

VA national contracting officers also use another system, known even more prosaically than eCMS as "Contact Management," and data from both systems is required to gain a complete acquisition solution, the national acquisition center director told auditors.

The office of acquisition and logistics (within which the national acquisition center resides) is developing an eCMS upgrade that includes integrating functions from the other system into it, but its rollout has already been delayed from September 2010 to August 2011, the report adds.

Auditors also say a review of contracts in the eCMS pulled up records with missing information. For example, the electronic file for a $19 million contract for pharmaceuticals had no acquisition plan, no evidence of market research, nor the determination of price reasonableness.

Auditors also chide the national acquisition office for taking longer than an allotted 130 days to award contracts. A sample of contracts examined by auditors found an average time to award of 422 days, with one contract requiring 1,143 days.

The acquisition director told auditors each contract delay had a legitimate reason behind it, such as a vendor protest, a contract review board decision, or staff reassignment. Auditors say that staff reassignment, at least, is a factor not outside of the control of the director, and add that contracting officers are "not being held accountable for the untimely awarding of contracts in our sample."

For more:
- download the VA OIG report, 10-01744-265 (.pdf)

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