Some DOT contracting officers not certified for high-dollar contracts

Nearly a quarter of Transportation Department contracting officers didn’t comply with certification specifications when working on certain high dollar acquisitions, says an April 9, 2015 DOT inspector general report.

In fiscal 2014, DOT obligated $2 billion on contracts.

To help ensure those contracts meet federal and departmental requirements, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) requires that contracting officers be certified at the appropriate level to correspond with the dollar value of contracts, the report says.

OFPP also directed each agency’s chief acquisition officer to establish agency-specific certification and warrant requirements.

But of the 63 contracting officers GAO reviewed, 15, or about 24 percent, did not fully comply with those requirements.

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GAO: Agencies not taking advantage of market research on lower dollar contracts

Federal agencies are taking advantage of market research for big dollar procurements, but are missing those opportunities for smaller contracts, an Oct. 9, 2014 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says.

All 28 contracts GAO reviewed included some evidence of the market research conducted. The contracts GAO reviewed were pulled from the Defense Department, Homeland Security Department, Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Department.

The market research conducted on the 12 higher dollar contracts GAO reviewed tended to be more robust and include more techniques that involved outreach to vendors, such as issuing requests for information to industry. That helped promote competition, the report says.

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GAO says federal agencies need better oversight of contractor-operated systems

Congressional investigators found that several federal agencies are not consistently overseeing security and privacy measures for information systems operated by contractors.

In reviewing six selected agencies, the Government Accountability Office said the agencies generally established security and privacy requirements and had plans to assess the effectiveness of contractor-operated systems. But five of the agencies were inconsistent in such reviews.

For example, the GAO report  released Sept. 9, 2014 said Transportation Department officials responsible for system testing didn’t evaluate whether seven contractor employees had the required background investigation.

“When they did so in response to our audit, they found that three of them did not,” GAO investigators said. “Officials stated that they subsequently removed system access rights for the three contractor employees until their background investigations had been completed.”

Besides DOT, GAO also reviewed the Energy, Homeland Security, and State departments as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and Office of Personnel Management.

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IG: Debarred firms remain listed for transportation set-asides

The Department of Transportation IG has alerted the department that it found three suspended or debarred firms currently listed in state Disadvantaged Business Enterprises directories as eligible to participate in the DBE program.

The IG issued a management advisory stemming from a recent audit into the DBE program, noting that federal regulations explicitly exclude suspended or debarred firms from receiving federally funded contracts.

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Departments underspent on small business R&D commercialization

Several departments underspent on small business programs for the  commercialization of research and development because they left out entire  component agencies from the calculations used to fund the programs, the Government Accountability Office says.

Under two federal programs, agencies must spend a certain percentage of their  outside research and development funding on small businesses R&D efforts  that align with federal priorities.

But the Transportation Department, for instance, excluded the Federal  Aviation Administration from its departmentwide calculation of outside R&D  spending, GAO says in a report released Sept. 9.  The Health and Human Services Department did the same with both the Centers  for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

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DOT cost-reimbursement awards did not comply with revised FAR rules, IG says

Administrations within the Transportation Department did not fully comply  with revised Federal Acquisition Regulation requirements on the use of  cost-reimbursement contracts due to a lack of guidance from the DOT on how to  implement the revised regulation, an Aug. 5 DOT inspector general report says.

The IG reviewed 31 cost-reimbursement awards – 11 contracts and 20 task  orders – from six administrations in the DOT that were entered into between July  1, 2011, and May 31, 2012.

Section 864 of the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act required amendments to the FAR to provide further guidance on circumstances when  cost-reimbursement contracts are appropriate as well as how to support the  selection of a cost-reimbursement contract and the resources necessary to award  and manage a cost-reimbursement contract.

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DOT employees made $58 million in improper purchase card charges, IG says

Nearly a quarter of all Transportation Department employee purchase card  transactions in fiscal 2010 and 2011 did not comply with DOT rules for employee spending, a departmental Inspector General report says.

During those years, DOT employees spent $277 million in 450,000 transactions  on their purchase cards, the report says. About $58 million of that did not  comply with DOT employee spending controls, the report says.

Purchase cards are routinely used to supplies and services, the report says.

DOT auditors based the results on a sample of 413 purchases in which 84,  totaling $254,000, did not comply with DOT rules.

Offenses ranged from not receiving approval prior to card use, receiving approval for purchases from officials that were not authorized to approve the  purchases and not verifying fund availability prior to purchases.

In the sample, about $93,000 in improper charges were made due to not getting  preapproval for a purchase. About $65,000 came from the wrong person approving  the purchase. And $47,000 came from purchases made without checking if the funds  were available, the report says.

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Commerce  employees made improper purchases with agency cards, report says

DOT struggles to define acquisition workforce needs, says GAO

The Transportation Department lacks the data to properly determine  acquisition workforce needs and goals for its operating administrations, which  spent more than $5.6 billion on procurement in fiscal 2011, says the Government  Accountability Office.

In a Jan. 23 report,  GAO says DOT acquisition workforce plans have significant limitations in their  data due to to a lack of internal controls to maintain, compare and reconcile  the data compiled from the department’s 11 operating administrations.

The report says the disparate data means there is no clear plan to meet  future workforce needs, despite GAO finding that four of the 11 administrations  would have to replace 50 percent or more of their contract specialists by the  end of fiscal 2013 to manage estimated attrition and meet staff certificaiton  requirements.

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Also see Transportation Department faces huge shortfall in acquisition workforce,

GDOT audit finds flaws in disadvantaged business certification process

An audit completed amid concerns about airport contracts found flaws in the Georgia Department of Transportation’s process to certify businesses with “disadvantaged” status for government contracts. The internal audit discovered calculation errors in more than two-thirds of the sampling of applications it reviewed.

The findings of the audit raise questions about the disadvantaged business certification process GDOT had been using, but it’s not clear how many of the applicants reviewed went on to win contracts.

The “disadvantaged business enterprise” certifications give firms special consideration, since agencies set goals to award a certain percentage of contracts to disadvantaged firms.

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DHS contractor allegedly fixed an airplane with paper clips

Jerry Edward Kuwata, formerly an executive at an airplane repair company with government contracts, pleaded guilty to “recklessly endangering the safety of aircraft,” the Justice Department announced.

Kuwata, a former executive with WECO Aerospace Systems Inc., concealed facts about repairs from customers and did not ensure that repairs were done according to Federal Aviation Administration regulations, said U.S Attorney Benjamin Wagner of the Eastern District of California. WECO’s clients included the Homeland Security Department and the City of Los Angeles.

“This conduct recklessly endangered the safety of aircraft that used the parts repaired by WECO,” Wagner said.

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