Posts Tagged ‘contracting’

Transparency in Contracting

August 21, 2009

Government Executive’s Robert Brodsky says the Obama Administration plans to raise the bar on making more government contract information available in his article, “Administration Says It Is Committed to Posting Contracts Online.”

The public already has access to some details about government contract awards via www.USASpending.gov, which is a database of federal grants and contracts.  Even more is on the way via www.Recovery.gov, which tracks dollars associated with the implementation of the Recovery Act.  But rarely are the actual contracts available.

Then-candidates Barack Obama and John McCain had co-sponsored legislation last year, The Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008 (S.3077) that would have required agencies to publish more details about their contracts.  It did not go anywhere, and Brodsky reports that it will likely not be actively considered this year, either.  However, President Obama could administratively require agencies to do so.  

Contractors are concerned about potentially exposing proprietary information and agencies are concerned about the overwhelming administrative burdens of redacting such information.  For example, the Defense Logistics Agency alone signs 8,000 contracts a day.  Brodsky notes that it took the General Services Administration two weeks to release a redacted copy of the Recovery.gov contract when requested.

Transparency and government watchdog groups are strongly supporting the potential move. . . .. It’ll be interesting to see how far transparency can go, and how this will change both business and oversight!

High Performance Government

May 11, 2009

People have been asking me when I was going to blog on the President’s new budget.  I wasn’t interested in jumping in on the program cuts, etc. because everyone else covered that with more depth.  But I was interested in seeing the outline for the management elements in the budget.  That was released today as a short chapter in the Analytical Perspectives segment of the budget, entitled:  “Building a High-Performance Government.” 

 The chapter is at a fairly high level, but outlines six themes:

 Putting Performance First.  The new Administration wants to replace the OMB Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) with a new “Performance Improvement and Analysis Framework.”  The PART helped establish performance measures across federal programs, the budget notes, but “it has been less successful in encouraging the actual use of performance measurement as a performance improvement tool.”  The new approach will “switch the focus from grading programs as successful or unsuccessful to requiring agency leaders to set priority goals, demonstrate progress in achieving goals, and explain performance trends.”  Cross-program and cross-agency goals would receive as much or more focus as program-specific ones.  These themes are consistent with a recent IBM Center report by Shelley Metzenbaum!

Ensuring Responsible Spending of Recovery Act Funds.  The emphasis on transparency and accountability that has been consistently hammered on in recent weeks is repeated here.  It reinforces the management focus being placed on the Act’s implementation.

Transforming the Federal Workforce.  The budget notes that almost half the existing workforce will retire the coming decade (with almost one-third retiring in the first term of the Obama Administration).  It notes “In filling these positions, it is essential to restore the prestige of public service and reform the recruitment process. . . “  It continues: “The federal hiring process also needs to be reformed” and this will be led by the Office of Personnel Management.  The budget say greater investments need to be made in the existing workforce and agencies “should make greater use of management rotations both within and between agencies” to better develop leaders.

Managing Across Sectors.  This section is vague but promising . . . . “In the new management agenda, the focus will be on determining and then implementing government services in a manner that provides the best value for taxpayers” by “acquiring needed resources from the private and nonprofit sectors, and collaborating across levels of government.”

Reforming Federal Contracting and Acquisition.  This section reiterates President Obama’s March 4th memo on reforming government contracting, which instructs OMB issue new guidance on: (`) reviewing all existing contracts to determine if they are appropriate, (2) maximize the use of competition in the contracting process, (3) use different types of contracts appropriately, (4) improve the capacity of the acquisition workforce, and (5) clarify when outsourcing is and is not appropriate.

Transparency, Technology, and Participatory Democracy.  This section reiterates the elements of the January 21st presidential memo, committing “to innovate in providing better levels of transparency and openness, and in devising new tools to let citizens have their voices heard by those who serve them.”

As noted, most of these elements have already been described in earlier White House announcements.  However, putting these six elements in one place, together, finally give an outline of the potential priorities for the Obama Administration’s management initiatives.