HUD Management:

Actions Needed to Improve Acquisition Management

GAO-03-157: Published: Nov 15, 2002. Publicly Released: Nov 15, 2002.

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In the 1990s the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) dramatically downsized its staff, however, its mission did not decrease. As a consequence, HUD relies more heavily on private contractors, and needs to hold its contractors accountable for results. GAO was asked to determine if HUD has processes and practices in place to effectively oversee contractors, strategically manages its acquisition workforce, and has management information systems that support its acquisition workforce.

HUD's contracting has increased significantly in recent years. Although HUD has taken actions to improve its acquisition management--such as instituting full-time contract monitoring positions and improving its contracting information system--weaknesses remain that limit HUD's ability to identify and correct contractor performance problems, assure that it is receiving the services for which it pays, and hold contractors accountable for results. HUD, in particular, its multifamily housing program, does not employ processes and practices that could facilitate effective monitoring. For example, HUD's monitoring process does not consistently include the use of contract monitoring plans or risk-based strategies, or the tracking of contractor performance. HUD has not ensured that individuals responsible for managing and monitoring contracts have the appropriate workload, skills, and training that would enable them to effectively perform their jobs. For example, according to HUD's records, over half of the staff who are directly responsible for monitoring contractor performance have not received required acquisition training. HUD's management information systems do not adequately support its acquisition workforce in their efforts to manage and monitor contracts. Specifically, key information in HUD's contracting system is not reliable and HUD's financial systems do not readily provide complete and consistent contracting obligation and expenditure data.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In November 2005, in response to our recommendation about its workload disparities, HUD reorganized its Office of the Chief Procurement Officer (OCPO) to align it directly under the Deputy Secretary, placing OCPO at an organizational level commensurate with its strategic importance in meeting HUD's mission needs. As a result, OCPO has increased its full-time equivalent positions and centralized its staffing process. The centralized staffing process makes it easier to distribute work to staff, irrespective of their field location. In addition, in February 2006, HUD finalized and implemented its ACMP. As part of the ACMP, OCPO is using individual development plans to assess the skills and capabilities of the existing workforce and identify training needs. Moreover, OCPO is using the Acquisition Career Management Information System to generate reports on staff training needs and certification. Finally, HUD is forming a new Acquisition Council (formerly Acquisition Workforce Council) that will, in part, develop requirements for minimum annual continuing education training requirements.

    Recommendation: To address weaknesses GAO identified, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should improve management of HUD's acquisition workforce by (1) addressing workload disparities, (2) finalizing and implementing the Acquisition Management Career Plan, (3) assessing the skills and capabilities of the existing acquisition workforce, and (4) ensuring that appropriate training is provided to staff with contract oversight responsibilities and that staff meet federal training requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In September 2007, HUD reported that it had clarified the roles and responsibilities of the multifamily housing GTRs and GTMs for multifamily property management contracts (the focus of GAO's review). Originally, numerous HUD field staff were reponsible for carrying out the GTR and GTM functions, including many on a part-time basis. This arrangement resulted in unclear lines of reporting and staff performing roles for which they may not have been qualified. To address this issue, HUD transfered the GTR function (the position with the greater contracting authority)from the field offices to HUD heaquarters, while maintaining the GTM function in the field offices. Additionally, contracting staff in the field offices have completed required procurement training.

    Recommendation: To address weaknesses GAO identified, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should clarify the roles and responsibilities of the multifamily housing Government Technical Representatives and Government Technical Monitors, including the need to (1) clearly define reporting lines and (2) reduce overlap of responsibilities consistent with HUD guidance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to our recommendation, HUD issued its Desk Guide for Contract Administration in September 2006. This guide includes information on how to develop and implement contract monitoring plans, and conduct risk assessments and contractor performance evaluations. Specifically, the desk guide states that "the contract administration plan is the backbone for contract monitoring." Further, it states that each plan should describe (1) what will be monitored, (2) how monitoring will be done, (3) when monitoring will be done, and (4) who will monitor. In the risk assessment section, the desk guide states that risk-based monitoring maximizes the government's resources by concentrating them on those areas of a contract that pose the highest risk. Moreover, the guide describes the risk assessment process in detail, including who should conduct the risk assessment and how. The desk guide also states that tracking contractor performance is a key component to effective contractor monitoring. To help track contractor performance, HUD issued procedural guidance in June 2003 that provides guidelines and instructions for collecting and preparing past contractor performance evaluations.

    Recommendation: To address weaknesses GAO identified, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should implement a more systematic approach to HUD contract oversight that (1) uses monitoring/contract administration plans; (2) uses a risk-based approach for monitoring to assist in identifying those areas where HUD has the greatest vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement; and (3) tracks contractor performance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to our recommendation, HUD now routinely trains staff on the definitions of the data intended to be captured and on the procurement system functions, including tracking milestones, deliverables, and contractor performance. HUD began providing this training in December 2003, and has provided it about twice a year since. Finally, HUD upgraded the contracting system with new data verification edits to improve its accuracy.

    Recommendation: To address weaknesses GAO identified, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should improve the usefulness of HUD's centralized contracting management information system by (1) providing training to staff on the definitions of data intended to be captured; (2) providing training to program office staff on the functions, such as tracking milestones, deliverables and contractor performance, of the system, and (3) developing and implementing verification procedures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

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