$6 Billion Alert. What Does The Spox Say? Goring-ding-ding-ding … “Grossly Inaccurate” But ….

— 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 AuditsRobert 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 —

QUESTION: Right.

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.

* * *

Related items:

-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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Faces, Old Faces — State Dept’s Office of Inspector General Gets a Make-Over

— By Domani Spero

We were writing our welcome back blog post for State/OIG last week when we noticed that there were new faces and reshuffled desks at the Office of the Inspector General at the State Department.

You may be aware by now that the new IG Steve Linick took office on September 30 but he wasn’t the only one who started fresh at the State Department.  He came to the State  Department with  Emilia Di Santo, his Chief of Staff/Acting Deputy Inspector General for Policy from the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Inspector General’s Office (FHFA-OIG),and David Z. Seide, his Director of Special Projects at the FHFA-OIG.

Emilia Di Santo, Acting Deputy Inspector General

Ms. Di Santo who was appointed Acting Deputy IG on October 1, succeeded Harold Geisel, the Deputy IG who served as OIG boss for the last five years while the State Department did not have a Senate-confirmed Inspector General.

Ms. Di Santo was with the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Inspector General’s Office for two years prior to this month’s move to the State Department. Previous to that, she was the Chief Investigative Counsel for the Senate Finance Committee and was a longtime senior investigator for GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.  During her time with committee, particularly from 2004 onwards, the Wall Street Journal called the Finance Committee “a chamber of misery for the pharmaceutical industry and medical device makers, using its mandate to stop Medicare fraud as the grounds for many investigations.”  Ms. Di Santo also made news in 2005, when  she was repeatedly attack by someone with an unidentified object believed to be a baseball bat while unloading her belongings at her home in Virginia. The Hill reported at that time that nine staples were needed to close her head wound and that the FBI and Capitol Police investigated the vicious attack amid concerns that the assault was related to her work on the Finance Committee.  We could not locate a follow-up report on that incident.  She did not give interviews, and simply returned to work. Ms. Di Santo had been expected to follow Senator Grassley to the Judiciary Committee but in 2011 she moved instead to the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Inspector General’s Office.

David Z. Seide, Counselor to the Inspector General

Mr. Seide was appointed Counselor to the Inspector General on October 18, 2013.  Previously, he served for almost three years as Director of Special Projects in the Office of the Inspector General of the United States Federal Housing Finance Agency. According to his LinkedIn profile, while in that capacity, he made significant contributions to the work of the Residential Mortgage Backed Securities (RMBS) Working Group. Mr. Seide also spent nearly 12 years as an Assistant United States Attorney in Los Angeles, where he was responsible for the investigation, prosecution and trial of multiple individuals and organizations suspected of engaging in securities and business fraud.

A side note here, Mr. Linick’s former office at Federal Housing Finance Agency worked with the RMBS Working Group and the New York Attorney General’s Office in support of the investigation and prosecution of RMBS fraud cases. On Friday, the WSJ  reported that JP Morgan has reached a tentative agreement of roughly $4 billion to settle Federal Housing Finance Agency claims the bank misled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about the quality of mortgages it sold to them during the housing boom. Over the weekend, the NYT also reported about a larger tentative settlement over JP Morgan Chase mortgage practices and a potential record of $13 billion in penalty.

Another interesting note  we should add here.  Mr. Linick was FHFA’s first Inspector General. When he came to office in 2010, FHFA accused him of exceeding authority and went so far as to restrict the OIG access to agency documents, shared drive, and instructed employees that they should not communicate with FHF A-OIG without first apprising FHFA management. This guy did not fold.  (See Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) records provided to Senator Charles E. Grassley and Senator Tom Coburn concerning the independence of Inspectors General necessary to promote efficiency and prevent fraud, waste and abuse in agency programs, in response to the Senators’inquiry, 2011-2012, FOIA Request via governmentattic.org)

Two more new appointments:

Karen Ouzts, Assistant Inspector General for Administration

On September 4, 2013, Karen Ouzts was appointed as the new Assistant Inspector General for Administration.  She was previously the deputy at State/OIG’s Office of General Counsel. Ms. Ouzts succeeded David M. Yeutter who was appointed as OIG’s Executive Officer on October 2009. Mr. Yeutter is a Foreign Service specialist who presumably will return to a regular assignment in the Foreign Service.

Norman P. Brown, Acting Assistant Inspector General for Audits

On September 13, Norman P. Brown was appointed the Acting Assistant Inspector General for Audit. He was previously the deputy for the Audit directorate prior to this appointment.  He succeeded Evelyn R. Klemstine who was appointed Assistant Inspector General for Audits in November 2009. State Magazine’s October 2013 issue listed  Ms. Klemstine as newly retired from the Civil Service.

The following officials remain at posts:

State/OIG has 318 employees, more than double FHFA-OIG staff.  About 93% of State/OIG staff are civil servants.  Interesting times, over there.

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