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Agencies need better contract planning, GAO says

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Poor acquisition planning on service contracts has led to late contract awards, cost overruns and insufficient services at four federal agencies, an Aug. 9 Government Accountability Office report  shows.

Federal regulations require agencies to go through a detailed planning process for all acquisitions so that well-defined requirements, realistic cost estimates and lessons learned from past procurements are  in place before an agency seeks proposals from vendors. 

Looking at the four agencies with the highest obligations on professional, administrative, and management support services — the Health and Human Services Department, Department of Homeland Security, NASA and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) — the GAO found that while all but the USAID currently require written acquisition plans, contracting officers did not always use the acquisition planning process to develop a strong foundation for the acquisitions the GAO reviewed.

Also, agencies have not clearly defined how long acquisition planning should take, so program officials may not know when to start planning, the report said. 

The GAO has asked all agencies to direct their procurement offices to send out guidance on the use of the planning process, specify what should be included in planning documents, and establish timeframes by which contracting officials should begin planning.

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Help for Haiti

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A photo of the damage from the USAID Web site.

A photo of the damage from the USAID Web site.

I wanted to pass along the links the State Department posted instructing the public on how to provide assistance to the victims of yesterday’s devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti.

State says the fastest way to give financially is to text HAITI to “90999.” A $10 donation will automatically go to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts. The charge will show up on your cell phone bill.

State also set up a number to call if you need information about loved ones affected by the disaster. The number is 1-888-407-4747.

You can find more disaster assistance information from the U.S. Agency for International Development here and from the Center for International Disaster Information here.

Relief from USAID is already on the way. The agency mobilized disaster response teams to assist with search and rescue and to help assess the damage the quake caused. The teams include 72 personnel from local, state and federal agencies; 6 search and rescue dogs; and 48 tons of rescue equipment.

The U.S. Geological Survey posted information about the magnitude and location of the earthquake here.

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