Agencies can’t stop buying duplicate IT services

The entrance to the Government Accountability Office building on H Street NW in Washington, D.C. (Joe Warminsky / Scoop News Group)

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Most agencies haven’t fully implemented suggested practices for using existing contracts to avoid buying duplicate IT products and services, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Federal agencies are pretty hit or miss when it comes to following the Office of Management and Budget‘s recommended practices for IT spending under category management — using existing contracts for categories of similar products and services — according to a new report from the GAO. For instance, only three of seven agencies the watchdog reviewed shared the pricing and terms and conditions of IT products and services they bought with their contracts to prevent duplication.

Redundancy, including agencies awarding two contracts to the same vendor for the same service, remains all too common within the federal government’s $90 billion yearly IT spend.

“Until agencies ensure that their efforts to prevent, identify, and reduce duplicative IT contracts are fully aligned with category management principles and practices, and are informed by spend analyses, they will be at increased risk of wasteful spending,” reads GAO’s report. “In addition, they will likely miss opportunities to identify and realize savings of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.”

GAO reviewed the IT category management of the departments of AgricultureDefenseHealth and Human ServicesHomeland SecurityJusticeState, and Veterans Affairs to see if they followed OMB’s suggested practices.

DOD, HHS and DHS shared IT contract information to prevent duplication; VA partially shared it; and USDA and DOJ did not. The State Department wasn’t evaluated because most of its IT contracts belong to other agencies.

Roughly half of the agencies reviewed reduced IT spending outside of agency-wide, governmentwide, and Best in Class contracts, and implemented IT vendor management strategies, per category management best practices.

All agencies had identified a senior accountable official for IT category management except for VA, which had done so partially. And all agencies had trained their workforces in IT category management except for DOJ, which had done so partially.

VA garnered the most recommendations for improvement from GAO, having fully implemented only one category management practice, while HHS and DHS were the only agencies to have fully implemented everything. GAO still recommended that HHS regularly analyze its spending for IT duplication.

Generally, the agencies concurred with GAO’s findings.

“Agencies cited several reasons for their varied implementation, including that they were still working to define how to best integrate category management into the agency,” reads the report.

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category management, Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Government Accountability Office (GAO), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), State Department
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