US must tackle sloppy buying

3 February 2009

03 February 2009 | Jake Kanter

The US government must improve the "quality and quantity" of its buyers to end current "sloppy" spending, according to a key figure in president Barack Obama's new administration.

Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), spoke at a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs confirmation hearing. He said purchasers in government departments are struggling to manage their budgets because agencies are understaffed and buyers themselves are not sufficiently organised.

Orszag (pictured below) said it was essential to boost buyer numbers and spend more money on attracting purchasing talent. He explained the government's procurement budget has more than doubled in the last eight years to reach $400 billion (£287 billion), and having improved resources would reduce costs and cut out waste.

"If you double the procurement budget, and the number of procurement officers stays flat, then unless the productivity of those officers doubles over the same period of time somehow magically, then it is not surprising that things get sloppy and problems arise.

"By constraining acquisition officers we're being penny wise and pound foolish. You might save a little on human capital costs but you're losing a lot in terms of cost over-runs and other problems," he said.

Orszag added that the OMB must improve its oversight of purchasing activity and increase the number of audits it carries out to ensure procurement projects are well planned and managed.

He also said that transparency website needs to be improved with "timely and accurate data" to increase the openness of government spending


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