Agencies Get New Orders to Report on Costs, Savings of Job Competitions


Contractorgroupsandfederallaborunionswelcomedrequirementsthatfederalagenciesprovidemoreinformationabouttheireffortstoputfederaljobsupforcompetition,whileeachgroupsaiditstillfacedsignificantdisadvantagesinsuchcompetitions.

AnOct.15memofromtheOfficeofManagementandBudgetoutlinedadditionalrequirementsforagenciestoreportontheircompetitivesourcingpracticespassedbyCongresslastyear.Theyincludereportingonsavingsfromcompetitions,costsassociatedwithholdingthecompetitions,thenumberofbidsreceivedandhowthewinningbidwaschosen.AgenciesmustgiveCongressreportsontheircompetitivesourcingeffortswiththisinformationforfiscal2004byDec.31.

Federalemployeeorganizationsandrepresentativesofcontractorssaidinformationaboutcompetitionsandwhatittakestowinthemarecurrentlyshroudedinmystery."I'dlovetoknowhowmanybiddersthereare,andwhenyoudon'thaveany,Iwouldwanttoknowwhy.It'salmostimpossibletofindthatoutnow,"saidStanSoloway,presidentoftheProfessionalServicesCouncil,whichrepresentscompaniesthatbidongovernmentcontracts.

"Thenumberofbiddersyougetisanindicatorofthequalityofthecompetition,"Solowaysaid,addingthatthefactthatmostrecentcompetitionshavebeenwonbyin-houseteamssuggestsabiastowardfederalworkersinthecompetitionprocess.

FrankCarelli,directorofgovernmentemployeesfortheInternationalAssociationofMachinistsandAerospaceWorkers,amemberoftheAFL-CIO,arguedthatfederalworkersfaceasignificantdisadvantagewhenbidding."Federalemployeesjustaren'ttrainedenoughtocompetewithcontractors,"hesaid.

Partoftheproblem,Carellisaid,isthatagencyofficialsselectingthewinningbidmaketheirdecisionbasedoncontactsandfriendship.Oneofthenewreportingrequirements,theobligationtoexplainhowagencieschosethewinners,mightshowwhetherornotthatisthecase.

Carellicalledthenewrequirementsastepintherightdirection."Iftheprocessistransparent,andfederalemployeesunderstandwhattheprocessis,itwillhelpthemcompete,"hesaid.

Theadditionalinformation,however,mayalsohelpcontractorsunderstandhowthebiddingprocessworksandimprovetheirchanceofsuccessincompetitions,saidJohnThrelkeld,alobbyistfortheAmericanFederationofGovernmentEmployees.Thereportingrequirementis"clearlynotsomethingthatisdesignedtohelpfederalemployees,"hesaid.


Besidesprovidingmoreinformationtothosebiddingoncontracts,therevisedproceduresshouldalsohelpCongressandtheWhiteHousemeasureefficiencygainsfromcompetitivesourcing,saidRichardKeevey,directorofthePerformanceConsortiumattheNationalAcademyofPublicAdministration,acongressionallycharteredindependentorganizationtohelpimprovegovernmentefficiency."Congresswantstoknow,andOMBwantstoknow,thestatusofthesecompetitions,"hesaid.

GeoffreySegal,directorofgovernmentreformattheReasonPublicPolicyInstitute,apro-privatizationthinktankinLosAngeles,saidmoreinformationwillenableagenciestoimprovecompetitions:"Withtheserules,youwillbeabletoseetrends,andperhapsidentifyflawsinthesystem,thatwillenableyoutofurthertweakandenhancetheprocess."

Controversycontinuestorageovercalculatingthecostsofholdingthecompetitions.InMarch,theNationalTreasuryEmployeesUnionsaidagencyreportsonsuchcostsexcludeexpensesrelatedtotimespentbyfederalemployeeswhoworkonthecompetitions.

TheOct.15memoinstructsagenciestoexcludecostsofemployees'timespentduringregularworkinghours,buttoincludeovertimepay.

"Therearealwaysgoingtobedisagreementsaboutcostcomparisons,"saidSegal."Youcouldputprocurementexpertsinaroomforaweekandyou'renotgoingtocomeupwithastandard."


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