Pentagon Radically Reducing Oversight of Contracts Worth Tens of Billions

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Keith Rutter
Phone: 202-347-1122
Email: pogo@pogo.org

Pentagon Radically Reducing Oversight of Contracts Worth Tens of Billions

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon has radically decreased the Defense Contract Audit Agency’s (DCAA) review of contracts, according to an October 18 DCAA memo obtained by POGO. DCAA’s job is to protect taxpayers from contractor overbilling.

“POGO has long feared contractors and their government allies would
block DCAA from exposing contractor ripoffs,” said Nick Schwellenbach,
POGO’s director of investigations.  “Why are billions of dollars being
put at risk when Secretary Gates is demanding cost savings?”

According to the memo, contracting guidance “now limits contracting
officer requests for audit services to Fixed-price proposals over $10
million and Cost-Type proposals over $100 million, unless there are
exceptional circumstances.” 

These audit services are reviews of cost data (referred to as
“reviews”) and they entail an examination of a contractor’s cost
proposal to the government.  In these proposals, contractors estimate
how much it will cost them to accomplish work on a contract.

Previously, there was no dollar threshold for reviews on fixed-price
contract proposals, but contracting officers would limit requests for
DCAA reviews of proposals over a threshold tied to the submission of
cost or pricing data, which is currently $700,000. The old threshold for
reviews of cost-type proposals was $10 million, but could be lower if
the contractor has systemic problems estimating costs. 

In FY 2009, a total of at least $92 billion in Defense Department
contracts fell between the old thresholds and the new ones, according to
USAspending.gov.  The $92 billion figure is a conservative estimate –
it reflects awarded and funded contracts, rather than contract
proposals, which are often higher than the funded contract award
amounts.

The guidance states that cost proposals below the new dollar
thresholds for review may be sent instead to the Defense Contract
Management Agency (DCMA). DCMA is typically less thorough than DCAA,
according to a 2009 Wartime Contracting Commission report.  The DCMA
also does not specialize in examining and verifying cost and pricing
data.

The reason for this new restriction is DCAA’s attempt to perfectly
comply with Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS).
With this standard, which requires meticulous documentation of findings,
DCAA is unable to cover as much ground as they used to, thus the need
to restrict “audits” as defined by GAGAS.  The number of DCAA reports
produced annually has plunged: 33,801 in FY 2007 to 30,352 in FY 2008 to
21,276 reports in FY 2009.

Rather than subjecting reviews of cost or pricing data to GAGAS, DCAA
should consider these reviews as financial advisory services, which are
not subject to all GAGAS requirements.  This would better protect
taxpayers and warfighters by allowing DCAA to review cost data and
deliver advice to contracting officers in a timely fashion.

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The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is an independent nonprofit that investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct in order to achieve a more effective, accountable, open and honest federal government.

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