Acquisition

How low-value DHS contracts can have high costs

Though smaller government contracts lack the attention-grabbing high dollar values of major acquisition efforts, low-value contracts can cumulatively represent significant amounts of agency spend. According to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, its agency has fallen behind in proper oversight of those contracts, resulting in missing files and lost payments that should have been recoverable.

“This occurred because components lacked a comprehensive contract management process for maintaining contract files, and reviews conducted by procurement personnel did not ensure that contract personnel performed the required procurement processes,” a July 2 report from the OIG stated.

“As a result of these deficiencies, two contract files valued at $4.9 million could not be located. In one instance, DHS was unable to address contractor performance issues and recover about $1 million. Also of note, six procurement documents from four contracts valued at $9.4 million did not have authorizing signatures, one contracting officer exceeded the warrant authority by $12,500, and two firm-fixed-price contracts totaling $2.3 million were not finalized. Furthermore, components lost procurement documents, mismanaged contracts and did not adhere to contract policy requirements.”

According to the report, DHS awarded $2.4 billion in low-value contracts in 2016. Low-value contracts are those that are valued at $300 million or less.

The OIG tested nine DHS components and found that all had contracting deficiencies of some sort.

Source: Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General
Source: Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General

The report recommended that the DHS chief procurement officer require the heads of contracting offices to establish management policies and guidelines that prevent the loss of files and ensure that personnel maintain contract files in accordance with regulation, award contracts within their warrant authority and monitor contractor performance to identify opportunities to recover funds in the case of poor contractor performance.

DHS, however, disagreed with the recommendations, asserting that the OIG lacked the basis to make the conclusion that the deficiencies were a result of a lack of contract management policy or guidance.

“The Department’s CPO did not take issue with the deficiencies we identified, only the underlying causes we cited and our recommendations to fix the deficiencies. Further, component procurement leadership for the associated contract files we reviewed did not take issue with our findings or recommendations,” the report said.

“The Department is concerned that our report lacked basis to conclude that our findings are a result of a lack of contract management policy or guidance, either at the department or contracting activity level. This concern is an inaccurate portrayal of what our report states. Our report clearly identifies two overarching areas in which components need to improve their contract management processes — maintaining contract files and following procurement requirements.”

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