The Department of Housing and Urban Development has made great
strides in streamlining its once-unwieldy acquisition process, according
to a new independent review.
HUD's procurement reform efforts over the past two years have been
very successful, concluded the report, which was conducted by the
National Academy of Public Administration. NAPA, a congressionally
chartered nonpartisan organization, assists federal, state and local
governments with management reform efforts.
NAPA applauded HUD for hiring a chief procurement officer in March
1998 to provide leadership and accountability. Six months later, HUD
created a Contract Management Review Board and announced major training
and education initiatives. The board is responsible for ensuring
procurement plans meet the agency's needs on time and at cost.
The report also noted that HUD had put full-time technical
representatives in its major offices and had launched a team-based
Congress requested the independent review after a 1997 HUD inspector
general report indicated the department's procurement activities were
marred by waste, fraud and abuse. NAPA studied HUD's acquisition process
from September 1997 to June 1998 with the aim of recommending a model
procurement system for the agency.
HUD issued contracts totaling $464.6 million in fiscal 1997 for
services ranging from property inspections and dispositions to program
evaluations and technology services. The department made procurement
reform a major priority under HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo's HUD 2020
management reform plan, unveiled in June 1997.
NAPA officials said in the report that when they began their review,
HUD was not incorporating procurement into its long-term business plans
and was not using performance-based contracting techniques, which are
designed to lower costs and ensure quality.
"As a practical matter, contracting expertise had not been
supported or rewarded. From an operational standpoint, the contract
initiation process was cumbersome and frustrating," the report
HUD's Office of Procurement and Contracts took an average of 358 days
to award a full and open competitive contract. By comparison, the
Federal Aviation Administration averages 184 days and the Department of
Education's standard is 156 days.
The biggest problems at HUD involved the Federal Housing
Administration (FHA), NAPA reported. The report suggested that if HUD
resolves FHA's problems, the entire agency's acquisition troubles will
be largely fixed.
"Secretary Andrew Cuomo, the department leadership team, and
staff working on procurement reform deserve commendation for this
substantial progress," said R. Scott Fosler, President of NAPA.
Rep. James Walsh, R-N.Y., chairman of the House subcommittee that
oversees HUD, said he was pleased with the report, but suggested HUD now
needs to focus on NAPA's future reviews. NAPA plans to next address
HUD's use of the Government Performance and Results Act and the
department's human resources management.
"If HUD continues to follow NAPA's recommendations, Congress
will be very pleased," Walsh said.