[LINK] government transparency
stephen at melbpc.org.au
stephen at melbpc.org.au
Thu Jun 3 07:22:53 EST 2010
Posting all (US) fed contracts online alarms contractors
By TOM SPOTH | Last Updated: May 30, 2010 (snip)
The Obama administration said it expects to begin posting online the full
texts of federal contracts, task orders and delivery orders as a way to
advance government transparency, kicking off a public debate on how and
whether that should be done.
Procurement experts say there are critical questions to work out
namely, how federal staffs will handle the additional workload and how
proprietary, classified and other sensitive types of information will be
"Right now, if the government makes a mistake about releasing
confidential information under a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act
request], the damage that does is fairly limited," said Larry Allen,
president of the Coalition for Government Procurement industry group.
"If you make a mistake and put proprietary information on a database for
everyone to see, you're really putting a company at a significant risk of
Information that shouldn't be released includes pricing policies and
executive compensation, Allen said.
In its May 13 Federal Register notice announcing the proposal, the
administration said the government would post contracts "without
compromising contractors' proprietary and confidential commercial or
It also cited the need for "uniform, consistent processing methods that
are fair and equitable as well as cost effective and efficient."
The notice suggests that the government may rely on contractors
themselves to review and redact texts of contracts, task orders and
delivery orders. Agencies already notify contractors if their documents
will be released under FOIA and work with companies to decide what should
Hugo Teufel, director of forensic services at PricewaterhouseCoopers and
former chief privacy officer at the Homeland Security Department, said
federal officials will need guidance on how to structure contracts to
make them easier to redact and more clarity on what information should be
redacted. Although posting contracts online will be complicated, Teufel
said, he supports the effort.
"The public has a right to know how its tax dollars are being spent," he
"One of the great things about living in an information society is that
it becomes much more cost effective to make available
to include contracts."
Teufel predicted that FOIA requests would decrease if contracts are
posted online, because in some cases that information would meet
interested parties' needs.
Tom Lee of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes government
transparency, also praised the initiative.
He said current databases on government spending are inadequate, and
posting contracts online would help the foundation do its work by giving
taxpayers a clearer window into the business of government.
Lee also suggested that if vendors had better access to information on
government contractors, it would encourage competition and result in
better deals for government.
Markets run more efficiently when those operating in them have better
information, he said.
Lee said he formerly worked for a Navy subcontractor and the "amount of
waste that was present
"I don't think there's anything wrong with exposing the inefficiencies in
this black box of contracting," he said.
The Federal Register notice is an "advance notice of proposed
rulemaking," which means that top acquisition officials have not yet
formulated a plan on how to proceed. Public comments on the idea are due
by July 12.
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