Auditing and Financial Management:

Framework for Assessing the Acquisition Function At Federal Agencies

GAO-05-218G: Published: Sep 1, 2005. Publicly Released: Sep 1, 2005.

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Federal agencies are relying increasingly on contractors to perform their missions. With hundreds of billions of tax dollars spent each year on goods and services, it is essential that federal acquisition be handled in an efficient, effective, and accountable manner. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), however--as well as other accountability organizations, inspectors general, and the agencies themselves--continue to identify systemic weaknesses in key areas of acquisition. In fact, the acquisition function at several agencies has been on GAO's high-risk list, which identifies areas in the federal government with greater vulnerability to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. In January 2005, we added interagency contracting to this list. Far too often, the result of poor acquisitions has been an inability to obtain quality goods and services on time and at a fair price. We can no longer afford such outcomes. Given current fiscal demands and the fiscal challenges we are likely to face in the 21st century, the federal government must improve its ability to acquire goods and services in a cost-effective manner. GAO developed this framework to enable high-level, qualitative assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of the acquisition function at federal agencies. Such assessments can help senior agency executives identify areas needing greater management attention, and enable accountability organizations (including GAO) to identify areas requiring more focused follow-up work. The framework consists of four interrelated cornerstones that our work has shown are essential to an efficient, effective, and accountable acquisition process: (1) organizational alignment and leadership, (2) policies and processes, (3) human capital, and (4) knowledge and information management. The framework supports an integrated evaluation approach, but each of these cornerstones can stand alone so users of this framework may tailor evaluations to an agency's specific needs.

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