This week, Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL) introduced a companion bill mirroring the legislation proposed by Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Tom Coburn M.D. (R-OK) that would expand and enhance the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS). POGO supports these bills, but we would still like to see most of FAPIIS made available to the public.
In other contracting news, the government is claiming that risky contract types are on the decline (another story here too). But if you read the White House release, that statement is only partially correct. The release states that competition in contracting is increasing and that spending on cost-type and time and material contracts (which place most of the risk on the government and taxpayers) are declining. That is true, but it’s only true for new contracts, which POGO believes only account for 10% of the approximately $130 billion that has been awarded. That’s a good start, but we need to see those trends for all $500 billion in federal contract awards.
The White House release also mentions savings from using reverse auctions. Unlike an auction where winning bids increase, a reverse auction requires the vendors to lower bids before the final offer is accepted. POGO has promoted the use of reverse auctions in the past, and we believe that it is a great way to effectively use competition to get deals.
Another proposal from the White House will likely incite riots in the streets (I know, a slight exaggeration, but it drives home the point that contracting is getting really exciting)—“High Road” contracting. The theory is the government should only be conducting business with contractors that meet and possibly exceed labor, environmental, and ethics standards. A government preference for green contractors might be forthcoming (which would follow government efforts to do the same).
In the meantime, Representative George Miller (D-CA) is trying to do his part to promote responsible corporate governance by barring “new offshore oil and gas drilling permits to British Petroleum or any other company with a significant history of violating worker safety or environmental law.” The House Natural Resources Committee passed Miller’s amendment as part of the CLEAR Act markup today.
While the White House’s “High Road” contracting proposal is certainly a controversial one, it’s not far off from how we as consumers buy goods and services every day. I know that is a simplification, and that the “High Road” proposal could have unintended consequences, but it would be nice if the government rewarded contractors who are attempting to improve their labor or environmental practices rather than padding their own corporate bank accounts. In fact, there is a growing body of research suggesting that in the long-run, a high-road approach to contracting pays off.
The GSA emission proposal referenced above was obtained and provided to POGO by Federal Times.
-- Scott Amey