Management Training Seminars Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health

Gao ID: FPCD-81-75 September 22, 1981

GAO reviewed management training seminars sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including the procedures NIH used to determine the need for specific management training seminars, who attends these seminars, who conducts these seminars, and whether competitive procurement practices are followed when consultants conduct the training.

The procedures used by NIH do not meet the requirements of governing regulations in the areas of determining the need for seminars, selecting students to attend seminars, and procuring the services of contractors to conduct seminars. NIH obtained competition in procuring management training from contractors in only 1 out of 24 instances during fiscal year 1980. The Federal procurement regulations state that all purchases should be made on a competitive basis to the maximum extent practicable. It further states that, when a proposed procurement appears to be noncompetitive, the procuring activity is responsible for insuring that competition is not feasible and for justifying its rationale for going sole source. Training through non-Government facilities is exempt from competitive bid procedures. However, many agencies have misinterpreted this policy to mean that there is no requirement to obtain competition when feasible. Without performing an extensive needs assessment, NIH could not be sure that only essential training was given. Since employees are assigned to training without recognition of formal selection criteria, there was no assurance that only essential personnel attended training seminars. NIH records did not show that the procedures employed to select seminar instructors assured that the most cost-effective instructors were chosen. NIH assured GAO that any sole-source procurements in the future will be adequately documented. NIH adhered to policy guidance in selecting offsite locations for training sessions.

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