Virtual reviews save command travel dollars
June 20, 2013
There will be fewer paper cuts as the Expeditionary Contracting Command conducts its procurement management reviews virtually versus the standard face-to-face inspections during the rest of fiscal year 2013.
ECC officials said fiscal year 2013 travel funding was removed from the PMR budget and a plan was devised to conduct their contracting support brigade reviews through other than normal procedures.
"The Army recognized that for expeditionary contracting, the ability to conduct oversight of our contracting organizations has been a material weakness," said Daniel Gallagher, director, Contracting Operations, Expeditionary Contracting Command, on why ECC chose to conduct the reviews using the Virtual Contracting Enterprise suite of tools.
Having established its program in fiscal year 2012, Gallagher said conducting a virtual PMR was the logical choice to meet the Army Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement requirement and establish a baseline analysis of the six ECC principal assistants responsible for contracting. With the ECC contracting support brigades and PARCs establishing procedures to use the Paperless Contracting Files, he said the command was able to conduct contract file reviews virtually.
"With the implementation of the VCE suite of tools, specifically the PCF, and the contracting officer representative tools, we are able to view the contract files from a distance without having the subordinate organization box up the files and mail them to us," Gallagher said. "The virtual PMR is proof that the PCF tool is practical for conducting contract file reviews without having to travel onsite."
Gallagher said the ECC units scheduled for review this fiscal year are: 411th CSB in South Korea; the 413th CSB offices in Hawaii and Alaska; and the 410th CSB offices in San Antonio, Texas; Miami, Fla.; Columbia and Honduras.
The first virtual review, the 411th CSB, was conducted in May with the next two scheduled for June and July.
"The PMRs are vital to inspect and report the overall health, efficiency, and effectiveness of contracting throughout Army agencies," said Donna Ragucci, ECC senior procurement analyst and the ECC PMR program manager. "Where others throughout the Army requested relief from conducting PMRs this fiscal year, we pushed forward with this virtual concept."
According to Ragucci, the contract files review team consists of up to 10 participants from ECC headquarters, Army Contracting Command headquarters, ECC CSBs and representatives from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Procurement. During the review period, participants are connected daily using teleconferencing for eight hours to discuss any irregularities or to ask questions. That requires a lot of information technology coordination between all the organizations.
"Video teleconferencing was established for the teams to ensure synergy and access to each other if needed," Ragucci said. "In addition, the teams had dedicated onsite contract lawyers to assist with any legal questions and issues."
Ragucci said once the automatic budget cuts took effect, ECC determined that overtime or compensation time were not allowable. That created a shift in the normal work paradigm.
"To be able to work the units in the Pacific and Alaska regions, the PMR team shifted to each CSB's working hours, sometimes coming in at 3 p.m. and working until midnight," Ragucci said. "For the 411th, the team worked Sunday evening because it was Monday morning in Korea. The contract file review teams at the various sites worked their normal work hours."
According to Gallagher, ECC will continue conducting virtual PMRs.
"As we complete our two-year baseline review of all our CSBs we will see if there are any critical areas that might require an onsite visit. If we do identify any critical areas, we will send a small team to conduct a focused onsite review while still doing the majority of the PMR virtually," he said. "Without conducting the reviews, we would not be able to ensure that ECC is keeping up with the ever-evolving Army contracting execution and oversight."