GAO: New Contractor ID System Needed

When the federal government is handing out thousands of contracts to more than half a million contractors, it's important to have a robust system for tracking the companies that receive each contract. Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on the federal government's use of a private, proprietary corporate identification system to track federal contractors and award recipients. Because corporations are continually acquiring new firms and/or merging with others, it is often difficult to keep track of which companies are actually responsible for the work the government has contracted out. The report recommended the government adopt a new approach to tracking this information.

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States Releasing Information Online that Can Ensure Public Official Accountability

On March 19, OMB Watch released a new report that evaluates state and federal websites designed to ensure the accountability of public officials. The report, Upholding the Public's Trust: Key Features for Effective State Accountability Websites, examines state efforts to release public officials' integrity information online. Such transparency is crucial to guard against self-dealing and patronage. While states and the federal government have made progress in this area, more work lies ahead.

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Study Shows Private Contractors Usually Cost More than Public Employees

Conventional wisdom in Washington dictates that the private sector can always provide services at a lower cost than the federal government. A new study from the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), however, turns conventional wisdom on its head, demonstrating that the government rarely reaps the purported benefits of lower costs through the outsourcing of service work. In fact, POGO found that, on average, the government pays service contractors more than 1.8 times the amount it pays federal employees with the same education, doing the same job and performing similar tasks.

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CWC's Final Report: Make Investments in Contracting Oversight

On Aug. 31, the Commission on Wartime Contracting (CWC) released its final report to Congress, detailing contracting issues in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although most media outlets focused on the sensational estimates of funds lost through waste and fraud over the course of the wars – possibly totaling $60 billion – the report makes a much broader and compelling argument for systemic contracting reforms and better contractor oversight. With the current atmosphere of austerity on Capitol Hill, Congress should heed these recommendations.

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House Questions Future of Government Printing Office

On July 22, the House passed an appropriations bill that makes deep cuts and policy changes to the Government Printing Office (GPO), an agency that plays an important role in current information dissemination for all three branches of the federal government. The bill raises troubling questions about Congress's understanding of and commitment to GPO’s primary responsibility for making public documents available to the American people.

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States Lead the Way on Contract Disclosure

Citizens have a right to know whether their tax dollars are being spent wisely. Unfortunately, the terms of government contracts are not routinely disclosed. A recent audit of ten federal agencies found that none of the agencies comprehensively posted contract information online. States, on the other hand, have begun innovating on contract disclosure.

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Analysis: Rep. Paul Ryan's FY 2012 Budget Resolution

Like all congressional budget resolutions, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's (R-WI) fiscal year (FY) 2012 Budget Resolution is not simply a chart of preferred spending and revenue levels, it's also a political statement guided by ideology. And Ryan's ideology demands that the federal government divert ever increasing sums from middle- and low-income families to big business and high-income families.

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Non-Competed Contracts Down Slightly in FY 2010

In February, the Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) completed an audit examining the agency's use of non-competed contracts in fiscal year (FY) 2010. The audit finds DHS significantly reduced its use of these risky contracting vehicles, lowering both the total real contracting dollars spent and the percentage of contracting dollars spent on sole-source contracts. An examination of other federal agencies' non-competed contract spending reveals a similar, though less dramatic, trend.

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DOD Getting a Better Handle on Contractor Numbers

The Department of Defense (DOD) and the branches of the armed forces utilize hundreds of thousands of contractors to perform a multitude of support functions each year. This includes everything from management and information technology (IT) support to intelligence work and weapons maintenance. Until 2008, neither the Pentagon nor the military branches knew exactly how many contractors they employed, nor were they required to find out. A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report sheds some light on the Pentagon's congressionally mandated efforts to tally its contractors, along with whether DOD is using the information to make better personnel decisions.

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Commentary: Contracting Oversight in the 112th Congress

With the GOP winning control of the House on Nov. 2, Republican members of House oversight committees are poised to determine how the lower chamber of Congress uses its investigatory powers for the next two years. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the likely chairman-to-be of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has released what his website calls "a blueprint" for oversight of the executive branch, and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) released a document shortly after the elections calling for greater congressional oversight overall. With plenty of contracting issues that remain unexamined or in need of further investigation, what will this shift mean for congressional oversight of government contracting in the next Congress?

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