OFPP wants agencies to certify contracting data quality

Thursday - 6/2/2011, 11:05am EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is, once again, trying to improve the quality of the data in the Federal Procurement Data System.

Over the last decade, OFPP and the General Services Administration have attempted to address this issue but agencies continue to struggle with the accuracy of the information.

"Complete, accurate and timely federal procurement data are essential for ensuring that the government has the right information when planning and awarding contracts and that the public has reliable data to track how its tax dollars are being spent," wrote Dan Gordon, OFPP administrator, in a May 31 memo to agency acquisition officials. "The quality of this agency data depends on agencies having strong internal controls for the input and validation of agency data entered in the Federal Procurement Data System and other acquisition information systems."

In the guidance, Gordon detailed new requirements for agencies to enter timely and accurate data into FPDS.

This is at least the third memo since 2008 from OFPP trying to improve data quality. In May 2008, then-OFPP administrator Paul Dennett issued a memo calling for agencies to pay more attention to the data quality in FPDS. OFPP issued another memo in October 2009 as part of its guidance for the Recovery Act.

Additionally, the data quality issue has attracted the attention of others in the federal acquisition community. The Acquisition Advisory Panel also recommended ways to improve data quality in its 2006 report. And the Government Accountability Office has issued several reports starting in 2000 about the system's long-standing inaccuracies and incomplete data. GAO released a report in September 2009 that found agencies have made data quality improvements but the system still needs some help.

In the latest memo, Gordon doesn't change the data elements agencies must track and enter into FPDS. What it does do is require agencies to:

  • Have policies, procedures and internal controls in place to monitor and improve procurement data quality, generally,

  • Have similar controls for ensuring that contractors comply with their reporting requirements.

Additionally, Gordon wrote that agencies will no longer have to submit data quality plans annually and, instead, submit certifications each January and include any acquisition-related updates to their general data quality plans. Agencies submitted those general plans April 14.

"These updates should include, at a minimum, the steps agencies are taking to improve past performance reporting, in accordance with OFPP's January 2011 memorandum ... and other efforts to improve the quality of acquisition-related data and information," Gordon wrote.

The guidance also includes standardized reporting templates and sampling methodologies developed by an interagency group.

OFPP and GSA will take other steps to improve FPDS data quality, including focusing on emerging challenges and process improvements, re-vitalizing the community of practice to collect tools and best practices and collaborating with the Federal Acquisition Institute and the Defense Acquisition University to review and improve training.

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