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  Daily Briefing  

April 22, 1999

Report: HUD procurement reforms are working

By Katy Saldarini

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 acquisition process.

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 said.

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.

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