Government Operations:

Reliability of Federal Procurement Data

GAO-04-295R: Published: Dec 30, 2003. Publicly Released: Dec 30, 2003.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

William T. Woods
(202) 512-8214
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Reliable information is critical to informed decision making and to oversight of the procurement system. The Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) has been the federal government's central database of information on federal procurement actions since 1978. Congress and executive branch agencies rely on FPDS to assess the impact that governmentwide acquisition policies and processes are having on the system generally, as well as with respect to specific geographical areas, markets, and socio-economic goals. Yet despite the importance of the data, we continue to find that FPDS data are inaccurate and incomplete. Although we have not fully assessed the extent of reporting errors, we have found sufficient problems to warrant concern about the current reliability of FPDS information.

As a result of numerous errors in data elements of FPDS, we could not determine the extent to which agencies had implemented regulations effectively, nor could we assess the impact of acquisition policies governmentwide. Our concerns about the reliability of FPDS data are not new. In 1980, we reported that FPDS failed to alert users that the system contained known errors. In 1994, we reported that the Federal Procurement Data Center (FPDC), which manages FPDS, did not have standards detailing the appropriate levels of accuracy and completeness of FPDS data. Our work and that of agency inspectors general indicates that many of the errors in FPDS are due to data entry mistakes by agency contracting personnel. In some cases, those processing the data did not have a complete understanding of the information requirements. In other cases, there was inadequate verification of the information entered into agency feeder systems, which, in turn, was transferred into FPDS. Agency officials cited a lack of training, high personnel turnover, the complexity of the agency systems, and frequent changes to FPDS data entry requirements as reasons for the errors. FPDSNext Generation (FPDS-NG) became operational effective October 1, 2003. As we understand the design of the system, FPDS-NG should, if implemented effectively, eliminate many of the sources of the errors in the current FPDS. At the heart of the new system are data entry methods that rely less on manual inputs and more on electronic "machine-to-machine" approaches. The system provides for immediate data verification to detect errors. If errors are detected, agency procurement officials will have the opportunity to correct them immediately while the information is still readily available. Information in FPDS-NG can only be as reliable as the information agencies enter through their own systems. In the long term, data reliability should improve as agencies fund and implement electronic contract writing systems. But not all agencies have done so. In the short term, as the transition to FPDS-NG occurs, agencies that do not have contract writing systems capable of interfacing directly with FPDS-NG need to review their procurement data feeder systems and take steps to improve the reliability of the information contained in those systems.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Office of Management and Budget issued a memo on August 25, 2004, which directed agencies to identify and allocate the necessary funds to ensure that their contract writing systems were capable of electronic transfer of information directly to the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG) by the end of FY 2005. The memo also required agencies that had not yet moved to an automated contract writing system to submit a plan outlining the necessary steps to move to such a system and to identify those existing systems that needed to be modified to become interoperable with FPDS-NG. According to the FPDS-NG Program Director, procurement data can be transferred electronically to FPDS-NG in one of two ways: through a contract writing system or web services. The FPDS-NG Program Director submitted a list in July 2008 of agencies that had contract writing systems in place that were capable of electronic transfer of data directly to FPDS-NG. This list included 22 out of the 24 Chief Financial Officers Act agencies. The remaining two CFO Act agencies, General Services Administration and the Office of Personnel Management, utilize web services to electronically transfer data to FPDS-NG. CFO Act agencies accounted for 99.7 percent of all government obligations in FY 2007.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Mangement and Budget (OMB) should ensure that agencies allocate the resources necessary to implement contract writing systems capable of electronic transfer of information to FPDS-NG.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Given my recent work reviewing the status of FPDS-NG implementation, I (Shannon Simpson) was asked to follow-up on these recommendations with OMB. On August 25, 2004, OMB issued a memo to the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies and the President's Management Council entitled "Timely and Accurate Procurement Data." This memo directed departments and agencies to take several steps to ensure their full participation in FPDS-NG, including all three of the recommendations made in GAO-04-295R. On June 15, 2005, I contacted Julie Basile to follow-up on the 60-day letter, which we did not receive, as well as to inquire about any additional (update) guidance or support to support closing these recommendations. I finally reached Ms. Basile on June 22, 2005. She is currently on detail to GSA to work on issues regarding the FPDS-NG system. She stated there are 12 modifications pending that were prioritized by the ACE committee and would improve FPDS-NG. She stated that OMB did receive agency responses to the August 25, 2004, memo. The memo, in her opinion, answers the other two recommendations. She said that any other documentation/written response from OMB would have to go through their legal counsel, Kim Luczynski. I contacted Ms. Luczynski and cc'd Rod Lantier, GSA (Director, FPDS-NG), on our needs to close these recommendations. October 7, 2005: Per discussion with AD, Amelia Shachoy, we will be closing this recommendation as implemented and doing an accomplishment report; evidence is August 2004, OMB memo. SGS *** (Myra's prior comments:) GAO contacted OMB on several occasions between July 13 and August 25, 2004, to determine the status of the recommendation. Although OMB officials indicated that they have taken some action, they did not provide any specifics or documentation as to OMB's overall corrective action. Since it appears that OMB has not taken sufficient action to close the recommendation, it remains open.

    Recommendation: The Director of OMB should require agencies that have not yet implemented electronic contract writing systems to report regularly to OMB on their plans to ensure reliability of the information reported to FPDS-NG.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Given my recent work reviewing the status of FPDS-NG implementation, I (Shannon Simpson) was asked to follow-up on these recommendations with OMB. On August 25, 2004, OMB issued a memo to the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies and the President's Management Council entitled "Timely and Accurate Procurement Data." This memo directed departments and agencies to take several steps to ensure their full participation in FPDS-NG, including all three of the recommendations made in GAO-04-295R. On June 15, 2005, I contacted Julie Basile to follow-up on the 60-day letter, which we did not receive, as well as to inquire about any additional (update) guidance or support to support closing these recommendations. I finally reached Ms. Basile on 6/22/05. She is currently on detail to GSA to work on issues regarding the FPDS-NG system. She stated there are 12 modifications pending that were prioritized by the ACE committee and would improve FPDS-NG. She stated that OMB did receive agency responses to the August 25, 2004, memo, but the memo, in her opinion, answers the other two recommendations. She said that any other documentation/written response from OMB would have to go through their legal counsel, Kim Luczynski. I contacted Ms. Luczynski and cc'd Rod Lantier, GSA (Director, FPDS-NG), on our needs to close these recommendations. October 7, 2005: Per discussion with AD, Amelia Shachoy, we will be closing this recommendation as implemented and doing an accomplishment report; evidence is August 2004 OMB memo. SGS *** (Myra's prior comments:) GAO contacted OMB on several occasions between July 13 and August 25, 2004, to determine the status of the recommendation. Although OMB officials indicated that they have taken some action, they did not provide any specifics or documentation as to OMB's overall corrective action plan. Since it appears that OMB has not taken sufficient action to close the recommendation, it remains open.

    Recommendation: The Director of OMB should request that major agencies, in consultation with GSA, conduct regular reviews of their procedures for collecting and reporting information to FPDSNG. Agencies should conduct such reviews annually until a satisfactory level of reliability is achieved, and periodically thereafter.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Oct 31, 2014

Oct 30, 2014

Oct 27, 2014

Oct 24, 2014

Oct 20, 2014

Oct 9, 2014

Oct 8, 2014

Oct 2, 2014

Sep 30, 2014

Sep 26, 2014

Looking for more? Browse all our products here