— Domani Spero
Last week, State/OIG issued a Management Alert on Contract File Management Deficiencies at the State Department. The Alert is reportedly intended to well, alert senior Department management to the serious nature of this issue and provides “recommendations to assist in eliminating or mitigating those vulnerabilities.” The main thing is this:
“In sum, over the past 6 years, our audit work has uncovered significant contract file management deficiencies in Department contracts/task orders with a total value of more than $6 billion.”
The alert dated March 20, 2014 was addressed to the Under Secretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy and the Assistant Secretary of Administration Joyce A. Barr. The signatory of this Management Alert is not State/OIG Steve Linick but three of the four Assistant Inspector Generals of State/OIG namely: Norman P. Brown, Assistant Inspector General for Audits; Robert B. Peterson, Assistant Inspector General for Inspections; Anna S. Gershman, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations. Mr. Brown has been AIG since July 2013, Mr. Peterson since 2003, and Ms. Gershman since 2011. The official response to this alert is dated March 28, 2014 from Ms. Barr who as head of the Bureau of Administration reports to Mr. Kennedy at “M.” Ms. Barr has been “A” since 2011. Mr. Kennedy has been “M” since 2007.
Do you know why it took six years for this alert to be issued? And how is it that this alert is not addressed to the State Department’s Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom?
Since $6 billion is a lot of resources spent, it made a huge splash — described as “lost,” “missing,” “misplaced,” “lacks files,” or “not totally sure” where the money went.
It made the Daily Press Briefing, of course:
QUESTION: Marie, do you have any comment on the OIG report that was made public today on the $6 billion?
MS. HARF: I do. Just give me one second. Well, reports that there is a $6 billion that can’t be accounted for are grossly inaccurate. The OIG’s report noted that there were a number of incomplete files for our contracts and that these contracts’ cumulative value was about 6 billion. As highlighted in our response to the OIG, this is an issue of which the Department is aware and is taking steps to remedy. It’s not an accounting issue. I think it’s more like a bureaucratic issue. But it’s not that we’ve lost $6 billion, basically.
On March 20th, our new Inspector General did issue a management alert on contract file management deficiencies. The Bureau of Administration responded with a plan to address their three recommendation. Those are all posted on the IG’s web page now.
QUESTION: So how much money can you not account for if it’s not 6 billion?
MS. HARF: I have no idea.
QUESTION: But it’s way less than 6 billion? I mean, you said it was grossly inflated.
MS. HARF: Grossly inaccurate. Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Okay. So do – you must have —
QUESTION: What’s a rounded-up figure —
MS. HARF: I’m not – no —
QUESTION: You must have an estimate of what it is if you have an understanding —
MS. HARF: It’s my understanding that it’s not an accounting issue. It’s not that we can’t account for money. So I don’t – I’m not sure that there’s any money that we can’t account for.
QUESTION: So how is it grossly inaccurate, then?
MS. HARF: Because it’s not that there’s $6 billion we can’t account for. They said there were incomplete files —
MS. HARF: — and that the files were – their cumulative value for those contracts was about $6 billion. So it’s a filing issue. It’s not a “we lost money” issue.
QUESTION: So you’re sure that you know where all that money is even though you acknowledge that the files are not complete?
MS. HARF: I – that’s my understanding, yes. But again, all of this is posted on the IG’s website in much more detail.
QUESTION: But —
MS. HARF: I don’t have the $6 billion.
QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, I just – (laughter) – it sounds like it may be more of a distinction without a difference, saying it’s an accounting error, like maybe —
MS. HARF: No, because the notion that we can’t find $6 billion, right, would mean that it’s an accounting issue, that somehow we lost money that – you can understand why when people hear that they think that it means we’ve lost $6 billion. That’s my understanding that that’s not the case.
QUESTION: Yes, please. I mean, regarding this IG issue, it’s like every other day something is coming out of —
MS. HARF: IG’s been very busy, apparently.
QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, because there was no IG before, no five years.
MS. HARF: We have a new IG, yep.
QUESTION: Yeah, it came on September. Yeah. I mean, I’m trying to figure out – I mean, when he’s like – when you say grossly and inaccurate, does he presenting these things with information or just like a number?
MS. HARF: Yeah. So the way the IG works in general – and I don’t have the details about their methodology here – is they are independent and they undertake independent reviews, some I understand that are done just routinely, some I think are in response to people submitting things to them. And in general, after the IG does a draft report they submit it to either the post overseas or the office here or the bureau that deals with it so they can have a chance to review it and comment on it and to begin implementing recommendations, if there are any that they think are helpful. So there’s a process here. Then they eventually release the final report that sometimes takes into account comments, sometimes they disagree. We have a variety of ways to respond.
QUESTION: The reason I am asking because these things are related more about overseas activities and contracts. Does the State Department officially – when you say grossly inaccurate, are you going to say what is accurate?
MS. HARF: Yes. And as I said, our response and the entire report is up on the IG’s website. I’m happy to dig into it a little bit more. But yes, we do. I mean, that’s why we give responses and they’re published.
A good excuse to post this again:
Below are some of the cases specified in the $6 billion State/OIG alert:
- A recent OIG audit of the closeout process for contracts supporting the U.S. Mission in Iraq revealed that contracting officials were unable to provide 33 of 115 contract files requested in accordance with the audit sampling plan. The value of the contracts in the 33 missing files totaled $2.1 billion.
- Forty-eight of the 82 contract files received did not contain all of the documentation required by FAR 4.8. The value of the contracts in the 48 incomplete files totaled an additional $2.1 billion.
- An ongoing OIG audit of Bureau of African Affairs contracts revealed that CORs were unable to provide complete contract administration files for any of the eight contracts that were reviewed. The value of these contracts totaled $34.8 million.
- In two joint audits conducted with DoD OIG,5 we found that, for two task orders valued in excess of $1 billion, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs had neither ensured that the COR for the Civilian Police contract in Afghanistan established or maintained contracting files that were complete and easily accessible, nor finalized and fully implemented standard operating procedures for maintaining COR files.
- A joint audit with SIGIR, we reviewed four task orders from the Worldwide Personal Protective Services II contract, with an estimated total cost of $1 billion as of May 29, 2008, and found that COR files maintained in both Washington, DC, and Baghdad, Iraq, were not accessible, complete, or maintained in accordance with Department policy.
- One investigation revealed that a contract file did not contain documentation reflecting that modifications and task orders were awarded to the company owned by the spouse of a contractor employee performing as a Contract Specialist for the contract. This contract was valued at $52 million. (Note: We think this is the relevant case – Former State Department Contract Employee And Husband Plead Guilty To $53 Million Fraud)
- In another investigation, OIG found that a CO falsified Government technical review information and provided the contractor with contract pricing information. The related contract file was not properly maintained and for a period of time was hidden by the CO. This contract was valued at $100 million.
- In a third investigation, OIG found that a COR allowed the payment of $792, 782 to a contractor even though the contract file did not contain documents to support the payment. Furthermore, an additional OIG investigation revealed that the contract file was missing a COR appointment letter required by FAR 1.602-2 (d).
- COR files for a $2.5 million contract lacked status reports and a tally of the funds expended and remaining on the contract. OIG discovered other instances in which contract files lacked contract performance documentation and COR appointment and training certification; CORs failed to maintain technical information and performance records needed to monitor contractor performance; and COR filing systems were disorganized.
The Management Alert issued concludes that “The failure to enforce those requirements exposes the Department to significant financial risk and makes OIG oversight more difficult. It creates conditions conducive to fraud, as corrupt individuals may attempt to conceal evidence of illicit behavior by omitting key documents from the contract file. It impairs the ability of the Department to take effective and timely action to protect its interests, and, in turn, those of taxpayers. Finally, it limits the ability of the Government to punish and deter criminal behavior.”
If these contract documents were never completed, what is there to file? If these were filed but misplaced, how do you find files that date back to 2008 for instance on the Worldwide Personal Protective Services II contract in Iraq? Also, without accurate files how do we even know that “It’s not a “we lost money” issue?”
This is the second Management Alert issued by State/OIG under Steve Linick this year. We have not been able to locate previous management alerts issued by any of his predecessors as Inspector Generals of the State Department. Perhaps they’re available, not just to the public. But this scrub down is smart. Every new sheriff should do it. We’re also looking forward to the next alert. It’ll tell us where the new IG is looking under the hood.
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-03/31/14 Management Alert – Contract File Management Deficiencies (MA-A-0002) [1768 Kb] Posted online April 3, 2014
-01/13/14 Mgmt Alert on OIG Findings of Significant and Recurring Weaknesses in the Dept of State Info System Security Program (MA-A-0001) [6298 Kb] Posted online January 16, 2014