Is Standard Coding Just Around the Corner?

It wasn't three weeks ago that Earl Devaney, head of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency (RAT) Board, told Congress that conducting oversight of Recovery Act funds was unnecessarily burdensome due to the lack of a standardized coding system for government contracts, and now the procurement regulating arm of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has proposed a solution.

That was fast

Last week, Federal Computer Week reported on OMB's Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Councils issuing a proposed rule in the Federal Register to standardize the use of unique procurement instrument identifiers (PIID) across government. A PIID is a series of alpha and alphanumeric characters that provide a unique identifier to a government contract.

FAR currently requires agencies to use a PIID that "is unique, Governmentwide [sic], and will remain so for at least 20 years from the date of contract award" when reporting to the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), the government's clearinghouse for all contracts over $3,000.

The current regulations, however, do "not clearly articulate the specific policies and procedures necessary to ensure standardization of contract data beyond FPDS," which "causes numerous issues" within government contracting and financial systems, and results "in duplication, errors, and discrepancies." These problems only increase "for [multiple-award] contract vehicles ... used by more than one agency."

These duplications, errors, and discrepancies bring into question the contract data provided to end users, including government employees, contractors, and the public, who may receive "duplicate, overlapping, or conflicting information from the different Federal [sic] agencies."

The new rule would extend "the requirement for using PIIDs to all solicitations, contracts, and related procurement instruments" across the federal government, and to all contract actions, including actions "shared with supporting procurement, finance, logistics, and reporting systems," i.e. FPDS, and the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS), which feeds the soon-to-be-public Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS).

Much of this effort to standardize, as the notice states, comes from the exacting reporting requirements of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA), which created, and the Recovery Act, which has been a watershed for transparency in government spending.

Comments are due by Oct. 18, and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), which houses the FAR Councils, could offer a final proposed rule as soon as early next year.

Image by Flickr user Zoltan Papp used under a Creative Commons license.

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