Signs of Progress for Tracking Contract Work

It appears that some progress is being made in trying to keep better track of the work contractors do, oversight officials told Congressional leaders this week.

"The Defense Department, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development are making progress toward better oversight of the contractors they hire," says a story in today's DefenseNews.com

A Pentagon system that tracks jobs, pay and location of contractors hired helps, the witnesses said. That's the good news. Now for the bad -- problems remain.

The tracking system is "by its very nature a bit of a challenge because, as you know, there's no enforcement mechanism," said one defense official. And the system isn't used consistently because of gaps in information.

Take this as an example: A 2006 GAO audit that found the Defense Department was providing free meals to contractors and also gave them a food allowance, resulting in an extra $43 million spent in Iraq that year.

In another case, the GAO found that incomplete data left government officials having to pay take millions of dollars from reconstruction projects in Iraq and Afghanistan and put the money to paying for private security contractors.

It sounds good that at least some tracking has been done. But it sure sounds like there's still plenty of waste out there.

---Dana Hedgpeth

By Sara Goo |  April 2, 2009; 11:52 AM ET Contract workers , Procurement Debate
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Blog post says: "the GAO found that incomplete data left government officials having to pay take [sic] millions of dollars from reconstruction projects in Iraq and Afghanistan and put the money to paying for private security contractors." It then lumps this with "waste." Where is the waste? Aren't contractors' costs for security a legitimate cost worthy of reimbursement? Gosh, the government spares no expense protecting its people. The GAO finding sounds like a budgeting and financial management problem rather than "waste." Make sense? Waste by government agencies, including in how they buy and oversee contract services, is not hard to find. Why not find some new, wasteful expenditures to report? If you really meant to say that security contractors cost too much, that case has been made for years.

Posted by: axolotl | April 2, 2009 2:23 PM

I read this and the referenced article differently: "Security costs took funds from money planned for reconstruction, which meant some reconstruction projects were scaled down or cancelled altogether."

That sounds like security costs were not properly planned and approved prior to those costs being incurred on behalf of the taxpayer. Sure, contractors should get paid for services provided. But taxpayers (not contractors) - acting through our government - should decide what work is authorized. Since contractors are usually responsible for this level of planning within their bid proposal, they should reasonably be held accountable to keeping costs within plan.

So maybe this offense is not properly called 'waste' but contracting 'abuse.'

Posted by: JJK_94501 | April 7, 2009 12:43 PM

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