GAO faults D.C. procurement

Poor practices undermine reforms established 10 years ago, auditors find.

The District of Columbia's procurement practices are riddled with loopholes that undermine effective oversight, despite reforms enacted in 1997, according to a Government Accountability Office study released today.The district's procurement law does not apply to all procurement authorities and does not allow the chief procurement officer (CPO) to effectively oversee all agencies, GAO found. The system creates the risk that some companies could become preferred contractors and inflate costs.Washington, D.C.'s system provides broad authority for sole-source contracting and sets high dollar-value thresholds for small purchases not subject to competition, GAO found.The CPO is particularly hamstrung under the district's laws, according to GAO. Agencies can conduct procurements independently of the CPO, and as of 2003, the officer no longer has sole authority to suspend or debar companies from Washington, D.C., contracts.GAO recommends that the district’s mayor submit a new procurement reform plan to Congress for approval.Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), ranking minority member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, originally requested the study in 2006, when he was the committee’s chairman."This is a scathing report," Davis said in a written statement. "The reform that is needed is substantial and statutory."The district’s current procurement practices are "totally unacceptable," he said.