Saturday, September 21, 2019
Synchronization Of Federal And Dod Procurement Policies And Ethical Standards Essay Example for Free
Synchronization Of Federal And Dod Procurement Policies And Ethical Standards Essay The United States is not just admired of its technological advancement, its economic status and its military power but also of its sound and tight laws including its internal rules and regulations covering government agencies. In the case of the Department of Defense, Federal Laws and rules were kept updated as much as possible in the sense that revisions of internal policies were carried out. New versions of rules and regulations kept on coming in with reference to new laws or executive orders being approved and released. The biggest problem however, as it has also been with other agencies is that there is indeed a lack of strict implementation of such rules and regulations. This problem is proven by the increasing number of fraud cases in the procurement transactions undergone by the DOD. In order for us to find the flaw on the implementation system, let us evaluate the performance of the agencies wherein policy implementation on DOD were being delegated and entrusted. These agencies were not merely responsible for the implementation of the policies and procedures, specifically on procurement process but also for its monitoring. Let us closely look into the Office of the Government Ethics which is, according to Executive Order 12731, will be responsible for the administration of Principles Of Ethical Conduct For Government Officers And Employees. Specifically, EO 12731 (Section 201) should be administered by: (a) Promulgating, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Office of Personnel Management, regulations that establish a single, comprehensive, and clear set of executive-branch standards of conduct that shall be objective, reasonable, and enforceable. b) Developing, disseminating, and periodically updating an ethics manual for employees of the executive branch describing the applicable statutes, rules, decisions, and policies. (c) Promulgating, with the concurrence of the Attorney General, regulations interpreting the provisions of the post-employment statute, section 207 of title 18, United States Code; the general conflict-of-interest statute, section 208 of title 18, United States Code; and the statute prohibiting supplementation of salaries, section 209 of title 18, United States Code. d) Promulgating, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Office of Personnel Management, the regulations establishing a system of nonpublic (confidential) financial disclosure by executive branch employees to complement the system of public disclosure under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978. Such regulations shall include criteria to guide agencies in determining which employees shall submit these reports. (e) Ensuring that any implementing regulations issued by agencies under this order are consistent with and promulgated in accordance with this order.Ã The main point of determining the responsibilities of the Office of the Government Ethics is to have a clear basis of determining who is supposed to be overseeing the ethical policies and the implementation thereof. Since this office has been specially designated for such a responsibility, it is expected that it should have specially designed delegation and communication tools of coordinating such policies to other agencies under it. The methods are clear: promulgation, delegation, consultation and dissemination of the policies and procedures with other agencies and of course DOD is not an exemption. It is therefore but fair to conclude that communication tools and the power to use them are available at anytime for the Office of the Government of Ethics to use for synchronizing policies throughout all agencies. Section 301 of Executive Order 12731 specifies how synchronization of ethical policies and standards should be done through the specifications of the responsibilities of the Office of the Government of Ethics. This section directs the agency to : a) Supplement, as necessary and appropriate, the comprehensive executive branch-wide regulations of the Office of Government Ethics, with regulations of special applicability to the particular functions and activities of that agency. Any supplementary agency regulations shall be prepared as addenda to the branch-wide regulations and promulgated jointly with the Office of Government Ethics, at the agencys expense, for inclusion in Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations. (b) Ensure the review by all employees of this order and regulations promulgated pursuant to the order. c) Coordinate with the Office of Government Ethics in developing annual agency ethics training plans. Such training shall include mandatory annual briefings on ethics and standards of conduct for all employees appointed by the President, all employees in the Executive Office of the President, all officials required to file public or nonpublic financial disclosure reports, all employees who are contracting officers and procurement officials, and any other employees designated by the agency head. d) Where practicable, consult formally or informally with the Office of Government Ethics prior to granting any exemption under section 208 of title 18, United States Code, and provide the Director of the Office of Government Ethics a copy of any exemption granted. (e) Ensure that the rank, responsibilities, authority, staffing, and resources of the Designated Agency Ethics Official are sufficient to ensure the effectiveness of the agency ethics program. Support should include the provision of a separate budget line item for ethics activities, where practicable. The enumeration of such responsibilities appears to be just a matter of written rules for federal agencies. This is especially in the procurement process where more and more people are getting involved in procurement fraud. Every year, millions and millions of dollars are being recovered by the Department of Justice for running after the contractors and DOD personnel who acted in bad faith. Looking at the brighter side of things however, it can be stipulated that such events can be considered an indicator that these policies and rules on ethical standards are now being implemented quite well. Either way, we cannot consider each effort to be successful not until we have the occurrences of fraud lessen to a considerable amount. What should always be the goal is zero tolerance of any type of fraud. The synchronization efforts of the federal government must go beyond the circle of agencies. It is always recommended that the lawmakers be vigilant enough in evaluating every policy and laws governing the federal procurement process. It is their job to look into the flaws in the laws and recommend better and more efficient laws to be implemented. To be fair with enforcement agencies, policies are now in the process of strict implementation as more and more efforts are being done to revise and tighten procurement rules especially in contracting data. The governmentÃ¢â¬â¢s central repository of contracting data has long been criticized for being incomplete and inaccurate. Last year, the Office of Management and Budget launched an effort to clean up what gets fed into the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) by directing agencies to sample their data for accuracy. The Defense Department is still working on validating its data. Depending on the agency, data is accurately entered into FPDS between 85 percent and 100 percent of the time. Automated reporting has made it easier for agencies to load data into the system and reduced the errors associated with manual entry under the old system. But the volume of contracts has grown, making the issue of validating data more important and more challenging. While the quality of the data in the database is improving, there are still problems, say some critics who use FPDS regularly. Even with automated reporting and validation steps, people entering data still make mistakes the current software canÃ¢â¬â¢t catch. The rate the accuracy of the data is a seven out of 10. The new certification requirement has raised the importance of data accuracy to the highest levels of management. Agencies are much more focused on getting data right than they have been in the past. With more than $400 billion spent through procurements each year, the data is critical to managing functions and determining the type of staffing needed, OMB procurement policy chief, in a March memo to agencies. The launch of the federal spending Web site, USASpending. gov, in December has given new insight into the accuracy concerns with FPDS. As of Jan. 31, 6 percent, or $23 billion, of the 2007 contract dollars reported in the system had an unknown level of competition, which means a box in FPDS didnÃ¢â¬â¢t get checked. The inaccuracies found in FPDS come from the push to be current, which meant GSA had to relax some of the verification rules. The government had the option of waiting months for perfect data or entering data as contracts were awarded to provide transparency. GSA is seeking smarter validation technologies when it upgrades to the next generation of FPDS in 2010. Instead of simply telling users which fields in their system are missing, GSA hopes to create a system where fields can be compared to make sure the data makes sense, Fornecker said. For example, the system would be able to flag a $6 billion award to a small business or question conflicting information, such as when a contract award is labeled as Ã¢â¬Å"not competedÃ¢â¬ even though two or more bids were received. The Defense Department wonÃ¢â¬â¢t have an assessment of the accuracy of its data until spring, said Shay Assad, the departmentÃ¢â¬â¢s procurement policy chief. Software bugs and missing data fields in FPDS were causing some inaccuracies, and those are being fixed, Assad said. The biggest cause for inaccurate data is human error, but system errors also play a role. For example, the Energy Department reported that between 8 percent and 17 percent of its errors came from how FPDS interpreted the data sent by its contract writing system. The remaining errors were human errors, according to the Energy report. The ever-popular multiple-award contracts Ã¢â¬â long praised by acquisition professionals and contractors as a speedy way to get competitively priced goods and services without threat of protest Ã¢â¬â are about to get a makeover. The conference report for the Defense authorization bill includes a new rule that would give contractors who are eligible to bid on a multiple-award contract order the right to protest an order worth more than $10 million. The White House and industry have opposed this provision, claiming it would promote unnecessary litigation. Contracting officers would also be prohibited from awarding a task order worth more than $100 million to a single contractor without written justification, further limiting how the contracts are used. The conference report also includes another controversial provision that would require agencies to report all critical inspector general audit findings, including questioned costs, to Congress. Industry groups have opposed this provision saying it could misrepresent routine audit questions and misunderstandings as major contracting irregularities. Other contracting provisions in the bill include: new associate administrator position within the Office of Management and BudgetÃ¢â¬â¢s procurement policy office that will be dedicated to acquisition work force programs, permanent acquisition work force training fund, and contingency contracting training for people outside the acquisition profession including whistleblower rights for contractor employees. One more thing to reconsider in the policies synchronization is training needs. A yet-unreleased survey of government acquisition employees shows the work force needs more training in contract negotiations, program management and performance-based contracting, a White House official said today. OMB is working with Federal Acquisition Institute and the Defense Acquisition Institute to craft training that targets these and other areas identified in the survey, he said. OMB has approached Congress to renew procurement officesÃ¢â¬â¢ direct hire authority, which expired on Sept. 30, to allow agencies to quickly fill these critical positions, he said. OMB is also encouraging agencies to rehire retirees to train and mentor new workers and fill openings. Apart from training rules synchronization, the Department of Defense is also accused of discrimination is hiring or employment procedures including contract awarding against minorities and women. Still, this issue is an important consideration in ethical rules and standards set by the Federal Government. There are critics in an online publication that pinpoints the following areas of improvement in relation to ethical rules synchronization: Reorganization: Some observers emphasize the need to rationalize and coordinate the web of federal programs serving minority- and women-owned firms. For example, in 1992 the U. S. Commission on Minority Business recommended the creation within the Commerce Department of an Administration for the Development of Historically Underutilized Businesses which would assume SBAs responsibilities. Graduation: The program now requires graduation after nine years, and has phased requirements of non-8(a) and non-federal business mix designed to wean firms from sheltered competition and dependency on federal contracting. In February 1995, of the 1,038 firms in the fifth through ninth year of Ã §8(a) participation, nearly two-thirds met or exceeded the minimum non-8(a) business levels. Some observers have emphasized the need for analogous graduation and business-mix requirements in the DOD and DOT programs. Regional/Sectoral Concentration: Our analysis found SDB contracts and limited competition concentrated in certain industries and regions, which is undesirable for minority and non-minority firms alike. For example, while DODs overall goal for SDBs was only 5 percent, more than 35 percent of all DOD construction awards went to SDBs, and more than two-thirds of these were awarded under sheltered competition. Moreover, in ten States, more than 40 percent of all construction contracts awarded to small business was awarded to SDBs. This concentration occurs at particular sites as well, where in rare instances virtually all small business contracting is with SDBs. On the other hand, some degree of sectoral concentration in SDB procurements is inevitable to balance the many sites and sub-industries with virtually no SDB participation, and huge procurements for weapons systems and the like, for which no SDBs are available as prime contractors, and still too few as major subcontractors. Additional efforts are clearly needed to expand SDB opportunities more broadly. Self-Certification: Because DODs program is based on self-certification by SDBs, it may be prone to abuse, particularly through front companies. For example, DODs IG investigated Tyco Manufacturing and referred the case to the US Attorney. The companys owner pled guilty to charges that he falsely represented his firm as Hispanic-owned and controlled. Top officials of Automated Data Management, Inc. were convicted of conspiracy to defraud the government for concealing the firms ownership structure to participate in the Ã §8(a) program. Self-certification has obvious advantages in terms of reduced administrative expense and regulatory intrusion. Nevertheless, this must be balanced with the importance of ensuring that affirmative action measures are fair, which means as free of abuses as can reasonably be achieved. Subcontracting: In FY 1993, the most recent data available, small businesses received about $63 billion of federal contract dollars, out of roughly $180 billion in total. About one-third of that amount was from subcontracting. SDBs, on the other hand, received a little over $13 billion in federal contract dollars, but only one-sixth of that was through subcontracting. These figures are consistent with the widely held view that SDBs face greater obstacles to subcontracting participation than do other small firms. The SBA and other agencies believe that expanding the use of SDBs in subcontracting is both feasible and desirable as a strategy for creating more SDB opportunities. Other Program Changes: Several earlier analyses by the GAO, the SBA Inspector General and commentators have raised criticisms of the Ã §8(a) program, several of which SBA is moving to address by aggressively implementing recent statutory amendments which had languished under the prior Administration. These are reviewed more specifically immediately below. Past criticisms are that too many Ã §8(a) contracts were awarded on a sole-source basis, i. e. , without competition of any kind. This criticism has largely been addressed by recent and pending reforms. The 1988 law reforming the Ã §8(a) program requires that companies in the program compete among themselves for contracts valued at $3 million or more. (There is a higher competition threshold of $5 million for manufactured goods. Currently, however, many of the larger Ã §8(a) contracts are open-ended agreements that started out as small contracts and grew well beyond the competition threshold when a contracting officer renewed the order. To increase the number of contracts available for competition, SBA has proposed regulations to change this procedure so that an estimated value will be set on these open-ended contracts, which probably will be higher than the initial value. This means more Ã §8(a) contracts will be subject to competitive bidding among participating firms. In all these cases, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy must now especially tighten its implementation techniques. This office does have around $350 billion annual spending (Office of the Federal Procurement Policy, Whitehouse, 2008). According to their website, The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) in the Office of Management and Budget Ã¢â¬Å"plays a central role in shaping the policies and practices federal agencies use to acquire the goods and services they need to carry out their responsibilities. Established by Congress in 1974, OFPP is designed to provide overall direction for government-wide procurement policies, regulations and procedures. Given special authority for the procurement policy administration and implementation, OFPP is expected to find the means of having such procurement policies implemented in accordance with the Federal Ethical Standards. OFPPÃ¢â¬â¢s statutory authorities and responsibilities are set forth in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Act, 41 U. S. C. 401, et seq. OFPPÃ¢â¬â¢s primary responsibilities. First, it is appointed to oversee the development of acquisition regulations. The OfficeÃ¢â¬â¢s primary focus is on the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), the government-wide regulation governing agency acquisitions of goods and services. OFPP staffs are to review and coordinate such changes with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. It is also its responsibility to formulate and coordinate acquisition legislation. OFPP oversees the formulation of the executive branch position on all legislation relating to procurement. In close consultation with the major procuring agencies, OFPP develops legislative proposals for the Administration and formulates positions on congressional bills addressing acquisition issues. OFPP staff works with OMBÃ¢â¬â¢s Legislative Reference Division, Office of Legislative Affairs, and congressional committees to explain and refine legislation as it proceeds through hearings, markups and conference to final passage. Apart from this, OFPP is required to lead the activities of the Chief Acquisition Officers Council (CAOC). The OFPP Administrator leads the CouncilÃ¢â¬â¢s activities on behalf of OMBÃ¢â¬â¢s Deputy Director for Management, who officially serves as the Chair. OFPP staff provides support to each of the CouncilÃ¢â¬â¢s working groups, which currently are focusing on competitive sourcing, contracting with small businesses, human capital, electronic government, performance management, and contingency contracting. The office also is responsible for collecting, developing, and disseminating procurement data. This responsibility is accomplished through several government-wide data collection tools, the most significant being the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS). OFPP directs the Federal Acquisition Institute to improve the caliber and professionalism of the acquisition workforce. For example, FAI provides core acquisition training and workforce support to the civilian acquisition community and actively partners with the Defense Acquisition University to leverage workforce development opportunities. In 2004, OFPP chartered a Board of Directors, which reports to the OFPP Administrator, and ensures that FAIÃ¢â¬â¢s focus is synchronized with government-wide policy priorities. OFPP is responsible for developing policies, in consultation with SBA, that promote maximum participation of small businesses in government contracts. Lastly, it serves as Chair of the Cost Accounting Standards Board (CASB), an independent board which has exclusive authority to establish standards for use by contractors and subcontractors to achieve uniformity and consistency in the measurement, assignment and allocation of costs to government contracts. The CASBÃ¢â¬â¢s cost accounting standards are promulgated as regulations. OFPP provides staff support to the CASB. It is now but fair enough to say that Federal Laws on Ethical Standards relative to procurement policies are well defined, clear and tight enough. The problem arises on the implementation of such rules. It is therefore a strong recommendation to begin the strict implementation of such policies as soon as possible. The step can rightfully begins with appointing or hiring able, dedicated people to oversee the agency and those people whose morality and principle cannot be bought by material things, especially with money where the Federal government and the Department of Defense are undeniably abundant of.