Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Procurement Data
- What is the difference between the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) and USAspending.gov?
- Is there a cut off date by when the last data upload is done for a completed fiscal year?
- Is the OMB procurement data as current or complete as that found on USAspending.gov's?
- Is USAspending.gov the only website with relatively up-to-date and searchable data?
- Can an agency post a complete contract award online?
Answer: The Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) is the real-time, relational database that serves the government acquisition community as the authoritative source of contract information. It contains summary level data that is used for policy and trend analysis. Because contracts change over time and FPDS is a real-time, relational database, the numbers change in FPDS every day.
It is complicated to explain to someone not familiar with the contract process, why the numbers would change so often in FPDS. In an attempt to provide consistency, OMB accepted the design for USAspending.gov and decided to use a static approach to the spending website. This means the data is presented in simple charts and graphs that do not change - until the next upload is done. The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act requires an update every 30 days.
Answer: The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requires all agencies certify to their previous fiscal year data for completeness and accuracy by January 5.
See FAR 4.604 at: http://acquisition.gov/far/current/html/Subpart%204_6.html#wp1089036
The FAR states:
(c) The chief acquisition officer of each agency required to report its contract actions must submit to GSA, in accordance with FPDS guidance, by January 5, an annual certification of whether, and to what degree, agency contract action report (CAR) data for the preceding fiscal year is complete and accurate.
Because FPDS is a relational database, there is no cut-off date by which an agency can add, delete, modify, or correct a contract action in FPDS. The government will record the modification in the year it occurs of course. But the agency can amend contracts going back to 1980 if the contract is still active (and some agencies have contracts over 50 years old). We designed FPDS to allow the data to reflect the contract's current state.
Answer: There is no other OMB procurement data other than that found in the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) and used in USAspending.gov. FPDS provides real-time data from the agencies and it is validated on an annual basis. FPDS is more complicated to use. USAspending.gov's benefit is in providing easy to access charts and graphs.
Answer: No. USAspending.gov is a consumer of the authoritative source for contracting data found in Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS). FPDS data is available to the public as well and can be seen at: https://www.fpds.gov/. FPDS requires a minor registration consisting of an email, but anyone is invited to become a public user.
The contracting data in FPDS is complete, timely, and validated annually. The data used in USAspending.gov is taken from FPDS on a monthly basis and manipulated into static reports to provide the data in a more user-friendly format for anyone not familiar with the contracting jargon and/or process.
Answer: If the agency has an electronic copy of a contract they can post them on a website. However there are several factors that must be considered before this occurs.
- The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process is used to determine what information should be provided to a requestor. It provides a process used to review and remove any information that might be proprietary, classified, sensitive, or personal in nature.
- With respect to contracts, there are several agencies that post their contract award documents in their FOIA Reading Rooms if the contract has been requested at least three times and a redacted copy is available in an electronic format.
- In addition, we know of one agency posting contracts online immediately because they make purchases using published catalogs and the prices are exactly the same.
- A contracting officer desiring to post contracts online could establish the Request For Proposals (RFP) in such a way to ask the offerors in their proposals to segregate anything that the vendor feels is proprietary keeping it in its own section or attachment of the RFP. This would enable the majority of the contract to be posted online immediately. If a FOIA is requested for the remainder of the contract, review and redaction would be made simpler by looking over just the section or attachment not posted initially.
- A study was conducted on this topic in 2004. The 15 page paper is available at the following: www.acquisition.gov/CADOWhitePaper12_20_04V1.doc.